• Dagon (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: July 4th, 2018.
    Director: Stuart Gordon
    Cast: Victor Alcazar, Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Merono, Macarena Gomez
    Year: 2001
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    Dagon - Movie Review:

    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, 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 - Blu-ray Review:

    Dagon arrives on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment on a 50GB disc with the feature taking up over 31GBs of space on that disc. Like the Lionsgate release reviewed here, this transfer suffers from some obvious noise reduction that results in a loss of detail and some waxy looking skin. That said, this is not the same transfer as is found on the Lionsgate disc, as you can see from the comparison images below. The colors look a bit better on this release from Umbrella in certain scenes - like those shot underwater - while they appear to mirror the Lionsgate disc in other scene. On the flip side there are some compression issues. Neither transfer is perfect and both have issues, but we do at least get a better image than we had on the various DVD releases from throughout the years even if there's plenty of room left for improvement.

    The caps from the Umbrella disc are up, the Lionsgate disc underneath.

    Click on the images throughout this review for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    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.

    Extras start off with four-minutes of B-Roll footage showing Gordon directing a few scenes shot in the exteriors of the village and on the boat before everything hits the fan for our characters. The scenes shot in the town look genuinely wet and cold! There’s also two interviews shot on the set, the first with Stuart Gordon running four minutes and the second with Ezra Godden running three minutes. Neither is all that deep but they do allow the participants to give some quick thoughts on the production, the story, the locations and more.

    More substantially, Umbrella also includes just over an hour of vintage 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.

    Outside of that the disc includes, a theatrical trailer, a teaser trailer, two-minutes of TV spots, menus and chapter selection. On the flipside of the cover sleeve the original Dagon short story that Lovecraft wrote, which is quite a nice addition to the disc. Umbrella has also included a very cool slipcover for this release, the third in their ‘Beyond Genres’ line according to the number on the spine. Note that the extras newly shot for the aforementioned Lionsgate release remain exclusive to that disc.

    Dagon - 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. Umbrella’s presentation is imperfect, the transfer is waxy and shows obvious noise reduction, but there are some good extras here and the movie itself holds up really well.

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

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Torrente's Avatar
      Torrente -
      Just a heads up to let you know that none of the screencaps from Umbrella's disc in the comparison part of your review are available, unfortunately :-(

      Anyway, thanks for your review, as always!!!
      I'm a french fan of your work. I really appreciate what you're doing here.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Yeah, I can see them, but clicking on them gives a 404
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Thanks Torrente! The file extension is missing on the code, I'll fix it once I have better wifi access later today!
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Ok, fixed!
    1. Torrente's Avatar
      Torrente -
      Excellent! Thank you again!!