Dagon (Stuart Gordon, 2001)
[originally posted 22Nov2002]
After fifteen long years of production, Stuart Gordon’s original follow-up to Re-Animator finally finds itself released. In the interim, of course, Gordon has directed a number of other films, most of which, says the going wisdom, didn’t live up to the original Re-Animator. (I disagree, but that’s beside the point.) Predictably, the biggest blurb on the video cover says… “Stuart Gordon’s best since Re-Animator!” Caveat emptor.
For once, Gordon finds himself working with a relatively high-powered cast on a Lovecraft adaptation. Ezra Godden (Band of Brothers) is the hapless hero and boyfriend of the hapless female lead, TV actress Raquel Merono. The two are in a boating accident off a small, rocky island off the coast of Spain, where they go to try and find help. Needless to say, since it’s based n a Lovecraft story, “help” is not what it seems. Trust the village priest (Ferran Lahoz [Faust]) or the village nutcase (the late capo di tutti capi of Spanish cinema, Franceso Rabal [Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!])? And why is everyone dressed in those bulky raincoats?
It’s a Stuart Gordon film, so you know it’s going to rank high on the Joe Bob Briggs scale of greatness: lots of blood, lots of breasts, and the highest number of beasts per capita since Romero’s Day of the Dead. You can also rest assured that the special effects are going to be cheesy at best. This is Stuart Gordon; the cheese factor is always high. I mean, the man gave Jeffrey Combs a career.
But too much about the film says that the cheese factor is at times unintentional. The CGI (for one can lo longer make a horror film that does not contain CGI) is painfully obvious in an around the shipwreck scene. More noticeably, there’s a scene after Godden and Merono reach the mainland where Godden accidentally gets a large, nasty fishhook embedded in the palm of his left hand and has to extract it. The scene would have been stomach-turning if that hand hadn’t so obviously been made of rubber. (Note to self: rubber and skin do not look alike when wet.) If you can get past the cheese factor, the story is vintage Lovecraft (“The Shadow over Innsmouth”), the acting is, well, better than usual for a Gordon flick, and the sets are gorgeous (it was shot on location in Spain). But both Dolls and From Beyond are markedly better-filmed than this. For Gordon completists, but the novice will want to start with one of those two or Re-Animator. ** ½