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John’s Horror Corner: Dagon (2001), a lovecraftian love story with lots of tentacles and a good face peel!

March 24, 2013

MY CALL:  Director Stuart Gordon (The Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls) is no stranger to H. P. Lovecraft and I think he really nailed this one.  This is a B-movie, and it shows, but it’s a great one.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  This is a tough one… Bleeders (1997) touches on the same mood, shocking nature and romantic overtones and does so with similar quality and inventiveness.  SIDEBAR:  Based on the short stories “Dagon” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”

After a yachting accident in a storm, the affluent Paul (Ezra Godden) and his girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Meroño; Beneath Still Waters) find themselves on the shore of a rundown fishing village off the coast of Spain.

Finding the city nearly barren, they take shelter from the storm in the Church of Dagon which bears a strange symbol which Paul has seen in his dreams.  The people of the town are all quite odd.  A priest (Ferran Lahoz; Darkness, Faust) of the Church of Dagon has webbed hands, the hotel manager has gills and never blinks, and many of the people are stunningly pale, ranging from deathly anemic to even albino. We very quickly discover that this town and its people are under the influence of an ancient Cthulu sea god and its monstrous half-human offspring.

Aaaaaand cue tentacles!

Separated from Barbara early in the movie, our protagonist Paul strikes me as the first person to die in a typical horror movie.  True to Lovecraftian form, he is weak, pale, neurotic, desperate and scared.  That said, Paul is perhaps the most credibly pathetic horror protagonist out there.  However, unlike The Re-Animator and From Beyond, this movie takes itself quite seriously.  The Re-Animator and From Beyond reach such outrageous levels of ridiculousness that they start to feel cartoonishly crazy, whereas Dagon is focused and never farcical–but quite “out there.”

As Paul searches for Barbara we learn more about the village’s history with Dagon and find intriguing connections linking Paul to the village itself.  It’s pretty elaborate and inventive for a direct-to-DVD movie… even for any horror movie.

Tentacles from mouths…

This movie features a lot of crappy CGI that you’d expect from a Sci-Fi channel movie-of-the-week.  The gore is infrequent, but there is a seriously grotesque skin-peeling scene that should impress any gorehound.  But the monster make-up and latex prosthetics were good.

FACE PEEL!

Also interesting is the sexual, pseudoromantic nature of the story.  I understand this to be commonplace for Lovecraft, the sexuality that is.  But don’t think “oh, it’s just for B-horror nudity.”  No.  In this case the nudity, which is quite infrequent, is not the driving force.  Rather a taboo allure sets the strange tone, turning Paul’s terror into some perverted, yet pragmatic acceptance of unpredictable circumstances.

No tentacles = Cute.

Tentacles for legs = Less cute.

Director Stuart Gordon (The Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls) is no stranger to H. P. Lovecraft and I think he really nailed this one.

This is a B-movie, and it shows, but it’s a great one.  Enjoy.

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