The Summer of Lovecraft: Dagon (2001)

Horror in Spanish!
Horror in Spanish!

Reviewed by Tim Deegan

Directed by Stuart Gordon
Starring Ezra Godden and Francisco Rabal

The Story

This film is based less loosely than many on ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’, in which a posh backpacker comes to the deserted town of Innsmouth, encounters the town drunk and hears a tale of dark trades and (gasp) miscegenation with fish people, then finds himself trapped overnight and pursued by shambling foes.

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The Film

Our hero’s (Godden) yacht is driven onto rocks by a Sudden and Mysterious Storm. Hero and Girl (yes, they have names, but they’re not important) row to a small fishing village for help, meet a Creepy Priest and some shambling denizens. Hero goes out on a fishing boat to rescue Other Guy and Other Girl from the yacht; they’re gone! So he comes back and is chased around for a while by shambling denizens, aquatic beasties, Mutant Tentacle-Legged Priestess of Dagon (hereinafter MTLPoD), etc, then meets an Ancient Mariner (Rabal).

Ancient Mariner provides a flashback: once upon a time the village was a happy, friendly place, where people smiled and the sun shone. Then they made a trade agreement with a nearby undersea community: sacrifice women to the Dagon’s lust, get free fish and gold. Now all the villagers are half-human shambling Cthulhu-worshipping things who make human-skin masks to hide their hideousness.

But then! Hero and Mariner are captured, and reunited with with Girl (worried) and Other Girl (insane) in a crap-ass prison/warehouse/shack. Creepy Priest reappears, Girl is taken off to Dagon, Hero and Mariner are dragged away by shambling goons. Priest cuts off Mariner’s face with a golden butter-knife. MTLPoD intervenes to save Hero’s life. Hero kills the goons, disembowels Creepy Priest, and goes to save Girl.

Too Late! Girl is already being lowered Temple-of-Doom-style down the sacrificial pit. Hero lights some shambling denizens on fire, then grows gills. MTLPoD makes a pass at Hero, who lights himself on fire. MTLPoD shoves him down pit into sea, they swim off to Dagon. Roll credits. Clear? Good.

What’s wrong with it?

The usual suspects: acting, plot, script. The Hero’s big line when he kills the Creepy Priest is: “This is what it feels like… to die!” They just weren’t trying.

What’s right with it?

Quality shambling, that’s what. These fellows are clearly amateurs, but they give it all they’ve got, and they’re enjoying every minute of it. They can chitter and point evilly with the best, too. Dagon-tastic.

How bad is it really?

It’s not good. They took a H. P. Lovecraft story (“The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, which wasn’t a masterpiece to begin with), took out the atmosphere, the lines, the plot consistency and the characterisation, and put in tentacle rape. (That’ll do wonders for the Google ratings).

Best bit

Hero: If I stay, will you let Barbara go?
MTLPoD: (patient, explaining) Until you came, there had been no sacrifices for a year. Dagon needs her.
Hero: (angry) Fuck Dagon!
MTLPoD: (cheerful) Yes!

What’s up with?

  • The hotel? It has a nice well-lit lobby and a big neon sign, but there’s no way it brings in any money. This place is so shamble-tastic that the discerning traveller would rather swim home than stay there.
  • Gold knives? They must spend forever sharpening them.

Ratings

Production Values: Decent CGI, lighting and sound. Passable sets. 6
Dialogue and Performances: Paco Rabal is the only actor in the bunch, and the script is pretty dismal. 17
Plot: Stock Zombie plot, plus some randomness. No advance on Resident Evil, or even on Day of the Dead for that matter. 15
Randomness: Not all their fault – “The Shadow over Innsmouth” was pretty random to begin with. But they insert whole scenes in the being-chased-by-shambling-denizens section that have no purpose other than to pop up another aquatic horror (with associated music sting). 13
Waste of Potential: There was a chance to make a really good, subtle tension-builder here, and they went for the shambling-and-tentacles rollicking shocker. Oh well. 14

Total 65%

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One thought on “The Summer of Lovecraft: Dagon (2001)”

  1. I rather liked this movie …. weird Castillan accents, anti-Catholic overtones, and a living Ursula the Sea Witch! What’s not to love?

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