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What is Dagon (2001)?

A boating accident off the coast of Spain sends Paul and his girlfriend Barbara to the decrepit fishing village of Imboca. As night falls, people start to disappear and things not quite human start to appear. Paul is pursued by the entire town. Running for his life, he uncovers Imboca’s secret..they worship Dagon, a monstrous god of the sea…and Dagon’s unholy offspring are on the loose…


There’s something to be said for B-movie horror, even if it’s often designed to gross you out, titillate, and kill people (sadly most often women) in gruesome fashions. I’m not sure that something is positive but it’s to be said. Stuart Gordon is one of my favorite masters of B-movie horror for the ridiculously over-the-top Re-Animator series. While I can’t recommend the Re-Animator series due to some truly shocking scenes, except for perhaps the final film Beyond Re-Animator, I will say I recommend this work. Why? Because we all have our guilty pleasures, and this is one of mine.

Possibly the most faithful adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadows over Innsmouth, Dagon follows a group of dotcom millionaires getting shipwrecked off the coast of Spain. Walking to the town of Imbocca, they find themselves immediately under suspicion by the mysterious townsfolk within. If you have read the Shadow over Innsmouth, you already know what the secret of the town is. What Dagon does, is they manage to make the story relevant to a modern audience and add dramatic tensions as our heroes find out the town’s dark history.

I can’t help but wonder if the role of Paul (Ezra Godden) was originally intended to be played by Jeffrey Combs. The character of Paul looks, dresses, and even acts like Jeffrey Combs’ trademark characters (excepting Weyoun). It’s the kind of role which would be played by Cillian Murphy now if they could afford him. He’s a surprisingly nuanced character for someone playing an obnoxious millionaire. Amid all the chaos and insanity, he experiences, we get some real character moments. I really believed he was the sort of guy who never expected to become rich and has found himself rendered purposeless.

I liked this unexpected statement on classicism and values. Many people may spend their entire lives pursuing wealth, but few expect to achieve it. Those that do often find themselves directionless and either pursue more wealth or try to find something new to motivate themselves. This contrasts heavily with the inhabitants of Imbocca who find themselves impoverished and end up being seduced by otherworldly forces in hopes of enriching themselves. The original story contained this later element and contrasting it against Paul’s unmotivated wealth (implied to be earned by sheer dumb luck) is highly effective.

The movie also has a more respectful tone to Christianity than the original Shadow over Innsmouth (not surprising given Lovecraft’s atheism and its role in his stories). If not for the gore, nudity, and let’s be frank–everything else, this movie might have been used in my Sunday school. The town’s rejection of Christianity for material wealth and primordial alien gods is the kind of lesson they taught when I was a child–before church started dumbing down the lessons when I reached adulthood.

The real heart of the film, though, is in the character of Barbara (Raquel Merono). Barbara is the actual protagonist of the movie and one of my favorite ladies of horror. She is proactive, defiant, and iron-willed until the movie’s end. The character’s distress at the end of the movie forfeits this movie any progressive points but I enjoyed Ms. Merono’s performance the entire way through.

Less effective but still enjoyable is the character of Uxía Cambarro played by Macarena Gomez. The eerie pale-skinned brunette personifies the temptations of Dagon (implied to be related to Cthulhu somehow) and the absolute batshit crazy his influence can drive a person to. She could have played this part subdued and menacing but decided to ham it up to the point of creating a run-on pork. This is probably the best choice as the character’s utter crazy is always watchable. Someone should find this woman and put her in a movie with Tim Curry (a Call of Cthulhu adaptation?).

The movie’s gore factor is considerable with an actual, straight from Conan beautiful maiden human sacrifice, as well as human faces being skinned to create ceremonial masks. That’s not getting into the body-horror elements. Rather than attempt to replicate the excessively large eyes and other qualities of the “Innsmouth look” which would just make the townspeople look like anime characters–the movie instead goes for cephalopod themes. After I got used to it, I think I came to prefer it since I’ve always preferred Illithids to Deep Ones. Some of the appendages make no sense but I assume combining human and Cthulhuoid D.N.A is difficult.

In conclusion, Dagon is a story which is very-very much in the B-movie fold. It’s got a great deal more nuance than most of them but don’t expect to see the material rise up above its blood and nudity quotient. However, in a world where Game of Thrones is a massive success, maybe Dagon is for you.

Available here

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