Dagon

51AK53733VL._SL160_Spanish fish people worship a big fish god. Ah, that wacky Lovecraft (by way of that wacky Stuart Gordon).

Fangoria calls this “Gordon’s best film since Re-Animator.” True?

Not to these eyes. Of the four Lovecraft-influenced films to emerge from the team of Gordon, Dennis Paoli, and/or Brian Yuzna — the instant classic Re-Animator, the fun but flawed From Beyond, the mainly unpleasant and dull Castle Freak, and this one — I’d place Dagon third, behind From Beyond (which is simply more fun to watch). Going outside Lovecraft, I’d judge Gordon’s 1991 The Pit and the Pendulum a better film than anything he’s done since his debut.

So you’re saying this is a disappointment?

Not really; just that it lacks the party atmosphere of Gordon’s first two Lovecraftian entries. When Gordon gets around to making horror films these days, he plays for keeps. The freewheeling Gordon of Re-Animator is gone, replaced by a director adept at suspense but not as interested in comedy any more (though Dagon has its bits of humor, chiefly verbal).

Is this faithful to Lovecraft’s story?

Ha. Are Gordon’s adaptations ever? (For comparison, check out Howard Phillip’s original, very short tale.) As usual, Gordon and Paoli take a basic Lovecraft idea or premise and run with it. This never fails to piss off Lovecraft die-hards, by the way. To which I say: awww, poor widdle babies; deal with it; it’s a movie.

So what’s the Dennis Paoli story (as opposed to the Lovecraft story)?

Rich stock analyst Ezra Godden and his Spanish girlfriend Raquel Meroño (along with two other vacationers, who aren’t around long) are stranded in the village of Imboca (a Lovecraft nod — Innsmouth, get it?), where the locals have their own unique ideas concerning religion and procreation.

Procreation?

Yeah, Dagon — the eponymous monster worshipped as a god — is partial to having human females sacrificed to it so that it can reproduce.

Oh, ick.

Indeed. The movie, I must say, is also plenty gruesome — much more so than I thought would’ve been condoned in an R-rated movie. Arms are torn from a body; a still-living (though not for long) victim has his face peeled off with the help of fish-boning knives. Perhaps the MPAA figured this was going straight to video anyway, so who cares how gross it is?

So did you like it?

Yeah. I prefer the anything-goes Gordon of Re-Animator, but there’s nothing wrong with a well-done, atmospheric, spooky chiller, especially coming from a director far less frequently heard from than he deserves to be. Besides, this is probably about as close to Gordon’s legendary unmade Lovecraft project Shadow Over Innsmouth as we’re likely to get.

It’s a horror movie that doesn’t involve knife-wielding Michael Myers ripoffs stalking ironic, pop-culturally-aware teenagers, and it spirals down to a surprisingly dark denouement (surprising these days, when plots with any hint of sending the audience out bummed have all the originality test-surveyed out of them) — I say we horror fans should get behind it. 4

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