• Dagon

    Released by: Lionsgate Entertainment
    Released on: July 24th, 2018.
    Director: Stuart Gordon
    Cast: Victor Alcazar, Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Merono, Macarena Gomez
    Year: 2001
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    The Movie:

    Loosely based on H. P. Lovecraft's story The Shadow Over Innsmouth but titled after his short story of the same name, 2001’s Dagon, directed by Stuart Gordon from a screenplay by Dennis Paoli, opens with a dream sequence in which a young man named Paul (Ezra Gordon) dives to the ocean floor into a deep pit where he meets a mermaid (Macarena Gomez) with razor sharp teeth. He wakes up and snaps out of it and we learn he’s on a boat with his girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Meroño) and their two friends Howard (Brendan Price) and Vicki (Birgit Bofarull) who are hanging out on the deck. Paul is concerned about the company’s stock but Barbara insists they relax and defiantly tosses his laptop into the sea. Suddenly a storm comes in and the boat gets wrecked on some rocks. Paul and Barbara take a raft to the shore of a nearby island, Imboca while Howard tends to injured Vicki.

    At first, when the pair arrives, they think the island is empty – but soon enough they meet a priest who talks some fishermen into helping. Paul heads out with the men to try and retrieve his friends while Barbara stays back. When Paul gets to the boat, Howard and Vicki are missing and he presumes them to be dead. When Paul gets back to the island he heads to the hotel where Barbara was to be waiting for him but now she too is missing. He falls asleep and has the same dream again but wakes up when a crowd of fish-people gather outside his room – at which point he understandably gets the Hell out of there. When Paul meets an aging drunkard named Ezequiel (Francisco Rabal) he learns the truth about the island and its inhabitants and, eventually, how and why this all ties into that recurring nightmare he’s been having…

    Dagon was made in Spain on a modest budget with a cast and crew that did not speak English as their native language, so it’s no wonder that some of the acting in the picture is a little iffy. Still, the good outweighs the bad here. English born Ezra Gordon is fun to watch in his part, running about the island in a Mistaktonic University sweater and delivering a performance that is nothing if not enthusiastic. Francisco Rabal is also pretty good in his part as the derelict that winds up clueing Paul into what’s really happening here, and if she doesn’t have a lot of dialogue Macarena Gomez at least looks really cool here, particularly in the film’s finale. The rest of the cast… they’re not going to win any awards, let’s put it that way.

    Where Dagon excels is with its atmosphere and in its ability to create an accurately Lovecraftian tone. It’s clear that Gordon and Paoli were treating the subject matter with respect, playing things completely straight this time around. As much as we may all love Gordon’s earlier Lovecraft adaptations, Re-Animator and From Beyond, those movies obviously incorporate a lot of black humor – that’s not the case with Dagon. The island setting proves the perfect place to tell this tale, it’s a genuinely eerie looking place, dilapidated and rundown and clearly quite old. Remote enough that yeah… maybe some of its inhabitants could feasibly be involved with arcane rituals in an attempt to bring about a new dawning of an ancient pagan god! The digital effects employed in the film were bad even by 2001’s standards and obviously they haven’t gotten any better with age, but the creature design and the practical effects employed in the picture do stand the test of time quite well. The score from composer Carles Cases is also very good and Carlos Suárez’s cinematography does a nice job of capturing both the scenery, its inhabitants and the action that occurs in the picture.


    Dagon arrives on Blu-ray from Lionsgate’s Vestron Video line on a 50GB disc (with the feature taking up just a hair under 21GBs of space) framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. This transfer is soft, and there’s a fair bit of obvious digital noise reduction applied to the picture giving things a fairly waxy look, especially when it comes to skin tones. Colors look okay but there are some minor compression artifacts here and there that aren’t exactly hard to spot. Is this better than DVD? Yes, but it’s hardly a reference quality picture. The screen caps below are a pretty accurate representation of how this looks.

    The only audio option is a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Subtitles are offered up in English SDH and Spanish. The audio is pretty solid here, there’s very good channel separation throughout the movie, you’ll notice this early on in the shipwreck scenes but also in the movie’s big finish where the rear channels are used very effectively. Dialogue is clean, clear and well-balanced while the score from Carles Cases sounds really strong here. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion to complain about and there’s solid depth throughout.

    The DVD release that came out via Lionsgate in 2002 contained two audio commentary tracks which have been carried over to this release. The first is with director Stuart Gordon and screenwriter Denis Paoli and it’s quite strong. The two men cover a lot of ground here, including the challenges in adapting Lovecraft’s text into film, what was involved in the film’s pre-production, casting the picture, their thoughts on the locations used for the shoot, how the financing came into place and more. There’s a good sense of humor to this and you can tell that these two get along very well together. The second track features Stuart Gordon and leading man Ezra Godden. Understandably, there’s a lot more emphasis in this track on what it was like during the shoot rather than the writing and pre-production phase, though there’s still some crossover. Godden speaks kindly about most of his co-stars while the pair detail challenges that occurred on set, language barriers and effects set pieces. Godden also talks about how various influences worked their way into his performance and more. Both tracks are worthwhile and very thorough.

    From there we dive into a trio of new featurettes starting with Gods & Monsters which is a discussion with director Stuart Gordon conducted by filmmaker Mick Garris that runs twenty-two minutes. It opens with Gordon talking about getting busted by Roy Disney while working for him watching a rough cut of Dagon and thinking that he was going to lose his job. From there the conversation covers a lot of ground, including Gordon’s love of Lovecraft, his feelings on Shadow Over Innsmouth and Dagon and what it was like bringing them to the big screen, how they’d tried to do a follow up to Re-Animator only to be shot down by everyone including Charles Band, how Filmax got involved, working with Yuzna as a producer, his thoughts on shooting in Spain and how impressed he was with the locations that had been scouted. He then talks about having to use Spanish cast and crew members on the shoot, concerns about local censors objecting to the storylines, problems with lighting and electricity while shooting in an abandoned hospital that was used in the first World War, the makeup effects, how and why they decided to cut certain scenes from the picture, and the importance of Macarena Gomez’s work in the picture. He also talks about premiering the film just after 9/11, the erotic elements not only in this picture but in Gordon’s other films and how that jibes (or doesn’t) with the ‘purity’ of Lovecraft’s prose and, towards the end, how the famously anti-Semitic Lovecraft probably wouldn’t get along with the Jewish Gordon in real life! This is a great interview – Gordon is quite spot on about what you can and can’t do when adapting Lovecraft into film form, his experiences working on Dagon and other Lovecraft inspired projects and the importance of the writer’s work while Garris is savvy enough to ask good questions, the kind that get Gordon talking.

    After that we get Shadows Over Imboca, an interview with producer Brian Yuzna clocking in at twenty-minutes that opens with Yuzna talking about how he had always wanted to do a series of horror movies that would resonate the way Hammer or William Castle did. He then talks about how he and Gordon wanted to follow up Re-Animator using the same actors but how things happened and it never quite wound up happening the way they wanted it to. He then talks about the deal with Filmax in Spain, getting Gordon on board and how they wound up taking the production to Europa to be shot after attempts to do Shadow Over Innsmouth (complete with Bernie Wrightson pre-production art) fell through. From there we learn about his experiences with different financiers, including Trimark, casting the picture, the source material that was used for the picture the effects and how getting burned by Faust smartened him up in this regard and a fair bit more. It’s interesting stuff –Yuzna is a laid back guy but he’s pretty honest here and hearing his side of the production history of the picture is time well spent.

    In Fish Stories we spend minutes with S.T. Joshi, the author of I Am Providence: The Life And Times Of H.P. Lovecraft. Here, over the span of eighteen-minutes, after reading a passage of the source, Joshi speaks about the Lovecraftian lore that inspired the picture in the first place. He also talks about the author’s fascination with the sea (but hatred of seafood), and how the sea tends to influence a lot of his writing. He gives us a history of both Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, how and when they were published, how his stories tend to tie into myths that go back countless years and why so many of his stories involved ‘depraved cultists’ worshipping ancient entities bent on taking over the Earth. He notes why the 23rd Psalm is recited in the film, and how he appreciates Gordon delivering a serious approach to filming Lovecraft. Joshi knows what he’s talking about and clearly has a serious passion for the source material. As such, he delivers some interesting insight on the history of the writing that inspired the film and some welcome opinions on the effectiveness of the movie itself, making this worth watching.

    Vestron also tosses in a twenty-seven-minute Vintage EPK that includes interviews shot during the production with Gordon, Godden, Gomez and Raquel Meroño. The interviews with Gordon and Godden cover much of the same ground as the other extras and commentary but it’s cool to see Gomez and Godden interviewed here, in English, about their work on the picture as they’re not featured in any of the recently created supplements on the disc. There’s also a selection of archival interviews here, featuring talks with Gordon, producer Julio Fernandez, Meroño, Godden and Francisco ‘Paco’ Rabal. Towards the end of this piece there’s also some vintage behind-the-scenes footage showing the cast and crew at work on the shoot. There’s twenty-two minutes of material in here and again, it’s interesting because it features a few people not included in any of the extras.

    Outside of that the disc includes a storyboard gallery, a still gallery, a conceptual art gallery featuring work from artist Richard Rapphorst, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. Like all Vestron releases so far in the history of the line, this one also comes packaged with a nice spine-numbered slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Dagon is a pretty swell film, a movie that treats its subject matter with respect and really does try to get that Lovecraftian vibe into the picture as best it can. The acting is occasionally questionable and the digital effects have not aged well, but there’s still a creepy tone to all of this and the practical effects and production design remain very strong. Vestron’s Blu-ray release sounds quite good and is stacked with some high quality extras, but the transfer is a disappointment, making this release a mixed bag.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      Things jibe with each other, not jive.

      Great review!
    1. Roderick's Avatar
      Roderick -
      Quote Originally Posted by Darcy Parker View Post
      Things jibe with each other, not jive.
      i like the cut of your jibe