Dagon (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

H.P. Lovecraft, master of the gothic horror story, has never been successfully adapted to the screen. Re-Animator was a pretty entertaining movie, but was campy and jokey, and decidedly not very Lovecraftian in tone. Lovecraft's spooky tales of the pre-human population of earth, the old ones, just seem to be difficult to translate to cinema without rubber monsters or camp.

The producer and director of Re-Animator have wanted to make an authentic Lovecraft movie for years, and they finally got this together. (Rumor is that the script was in their pipeline for 15 years!)

This film was adapted from Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," and actually does justice to Lovecraft's universe. Although it is relocated from New England to a remote Spanish seacoast, I had no problem making the transition. They chose their sets brilliantly.

Make no mistake, this is not a general interest film. It is strictly a genre picture for purists who actually enjoy big creature movies and zombie movies. It is about a big creature who turns humans into zombies. On the other hand, I didn't mind it much and watched it without the FF. There is shock gore and T&A aplenty so it held my attention, even though I hate both of those genres. If those genres appeal to you, it may be your kind of entertainment.


Raquel Meroņo goes fully nude when being sacrificed to Dagon.

Macarena Gomez, as high priestess of Dagon, shows her breasts many times.

In essence, the film is a waterlogged version of Lair of the White Worm. Dagon is one of the old ones, an underwater god-monster who has set up shop in a small isolated town where he is gradually creating a race of Dagon worshippers, and that race is being expanded by Dagon's intercourse with outside females, who are dropped naked down a well by Dagon's followers. Of course, the film is essentially a fish creature movie with fish-zombies in the town, but what makes it good for this genre is this:

1. The set up is excellent. A small sailing boat crashes on some rocks. They row to the fishing town, which seems deserted at first, then gradually reveals a creepy population of very pasty locals. I liked the way they introduced the horror, with the local people spied briefly in windows, which shutter closed. (I don't think they get a lot of human tourists in Fishtown.)

2. The atmosphere is excellent. Zombie movies can only be so good, after all, but this one works, in my opinion. Spooky, otherworldly town. Creepy music. Rain and fog. We follow the P.O.V. of one of the four sailors, who seems to be the last human in a world of zombies, and he's on their territory. The film stays consistently in his POV.

3. Sexy, creepy nudity

4. If you are into gross-out levels of gore, this film never backs off. For example, see a man's face removed from his skull on camera, while he is still alive and conscious.

5. The film is an uncompromising rendering of Lovecraft's vision. No happy ending. No camp. No hope. It's a straight horror-gore film.

There are a few cheesy elements as well:

Paul, the lonely sailor, is actually the second member of the party to reach the town. He is looking for his girlfriend, who preceded him. He finds a spooky priest, who directs him to a hotel. The hotel clerk doesn't talk and looks like a fish, but Paul says, "Well, just give me a room".  Sure. Just what I would have done, except I would have been sure to stipulate that I wanted a zombiefront room. Remember, the guy arrived on a sailboat. Hey, pal, how about going to the dock, stealing a boat and sailing away?

(That unlikely scene was redeemed, in my mind, by the room itself, which set the all-time record for the dampest, dirtiest hotel room in film history. Ultra creepy atmosphere.)

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • two commentary tracks

It turns out that one crazy old man is still alive in the town, and has never been converted to a fish-dude in the 60 years or so that Dagon has been calling the shots. Sound unlikely that he could hide from them all these years? Maybe so, but think about it. If that guy weren't there, how would our hero learn the history of the town? The fish-dudes aren't going to tell him. In essence, the old guy is this film's version of "Basil Exposition". Although his presence there is unlikely, there was just no other good way to reveal the town's past and stay within Paul's POV

In summary, I know that very few people like creature movies and/or zombie movies, but if you do like them, this is "top of the line". Good DVD as well, with not one but two commentary tracks.

TUNA's Thoughts

Dagon (2001) is purportedly the first film to accurately portray a Lovecraft novel. This being the case, Lovecraft is off my future reading list.

The story concerns an ancient octopus, who turns people into aquatic zombies, and an American couple who fall prey to them. The entire film was shot in lovely Spanish locations, but was done entirely with a hand-held camera. While I will admit that the camera work was very good for hand-held, there were some places where it was out of place, and really jarring. For instance, Ezra Godden enters a room where  Macarena Gomez (the monster queen) is in bed at the far side of the room, we approach her with a very shaky camera, only to find out that Godden hasn't moved.

The Critics Vote

  • filmcritic.com 2/5

The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. A very good straight creature/zombie movie. Creepy atmosphere, heavy on explicit gore and T&A. Tuna says: I was not impressed on the whole, although the locations, the make-up effects, and some of the photography were impressive. C-.

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