FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Feb 6, 2015

VHS Week Day 5: DAGON (2001)

As I popped in the Dagon cassette, I questioned why it doesn't seem to have the following that director Stuart Gordon's other Lovecraft adaptations do. Re-Animator...From Beyond...even Castle Freak! Beloved by the horror community, talked about and referenced and worn on t-shirts and put on the cover of horror magazines and blah blah. Is it Jeffrey Combs? Is he the common denominator Dagon lacks that leaves the film out in the cold all alone? Or maybe Barbara Crampton is the secret ingredient? Is the movie just another casualty of the 2001 limbo zone I talked about earlier this week? It just didn't make sense to me. Then I remembered that even I had yet to see Dagon and so I punched myself in the face because if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

(Aside: more Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton in things, please, Hollywood. I KNOW YOU'RE READING THIS.)

(Another aside: after nearly 15 years of thinking "Oh yeah, Mia Kirshner's in that" every time Dagon came up, I learned that this is not actually her. THE MORE YOU KNOW *rainbow starburst*)

About 25 minutes into the movie I had a thought: "Man, I could watch weirdo fishpeople make strange noises and flop-run around all day!" and let me tell you, it's a good thing I had that thought because that's pretty much all Dagon is.

After a storm lodges their boat on a rock, Paul (Ezra Godden) and Barbara (Raquel MeroƱo) seek help in an eerie, decrepit fishing village on the shores of Spain. It's not long before Barbara goes missing and Paul runs from the townsfolk, aka the weirdo fishpeople. And then Paul finds a hiding spot for a minute, and then he runs again. And then he finds a hiding spot, and then he runs again. It just keeps happening over and over! Poor Paul. I should be saying "poor me" because this pattern sounds really boring, doesn't it? But it's a testament to Gordon's skill as a director and/or my heretofore unknown love of weirdo fishpeople that I wasn't bored in the slightest.

It's also a testament to Ezra Godden charms and/or skills as an actor that I didn't hate Paul, because he's the sort of whiny dweeb you might grow tired of very quickly. Especially when he reminds you of the lead character in one of the worst video games you've ever played.

Eventually the run-hide-run pattern is tossed aside and shit gets really nuts and occasionally wicked gross in the last 15 minutes as the weirdo fishpeople set about sacrificin' in the name of their fishgod Dagon. If you wanna be spoiled and see some hot GIF and screencap action, head on over to our pal JA's My New Plaid Pants where he talks about a way you really don't want to die.

To sum it up: I was so into this movie! I loved it, even without Crampton and Combs. Even with spots of dodgy 2001 CGI! I mean, I can't imagine not digging a movie set in a creepy town with a secret, especially when that secret turns out to be weirdo fishpeople. It's like Dagon is right out of My Super Movie Wish Diary. I don't know if the horror community at large will ever embrace you fully, Dagon, but I sure will...with all the love my disgusting tentacle arms can hold.


AE said...

Oh, I am so glad you liked it! It's such a fun adaptation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth... yeah, the hide-run thing really shows how they had to stretch the story out, but I love the scene where he's trying to barricade himself in the hotel room with the little crappy lock. It's straight out of Lovecraft and it's done so well. Then it just goes completely off the rails and that's fun too. Plus I love that girl who plays poor Barbara. Poor Barbara... if there's ever another The One You Would Have Saved marathon I will have to make a case for her.

AE said...

Also (boy I love "Dagon") the Spanish setting is deployed really well. Coastal Galicia is indeed quite rainy and rocky and isolated, and people speak Galician instead of Spanish sometimes, and there are giant crabs in the restaurant windows -- it's a creepy great place! I feel like Gordon had a Spanish producer and crew and so he said "well, let's just make the best of this," but the setting works better than Massachusetts, I think.

Stacie Ponder said...

At the risk of getting kicked out of New England, I have to say the setting is muuuuch better than Massachusetts. It was shot really well- it just seemed so super isolated and terrifying. I loved it!

And you're right- poor Barbara. (Are all horror movie Barbaras/Barbras doomed?) It's weird, this whole movie was a downer, although it didn't have a downer vibe.

AE said...

Yes, it's got this very cheerful scrappy quality. Even the guy getting skinned alive is like "Hey, it's OK, I had fun talking to ya."

AE said...

and ooh, it'd be fun to have a "They're Coming To Get You Barbara/Barbra" movie night! Trying to think of other candidates...

Stacie Ponder said...

Black Christmas works! "They're coming to get you, Barbara/Barbra/Barb!"

P.S. That skinned alive bit was REALLY gross, like my stomach did a flip-flop. I don't like skin that's not attached to a body.

AE said...

yes! Barb totally counts. Does Barbara from Beetlejuice count? I feel like no.

I would not like to be skinned alive at all.

Nicholas Kaufmann said...

I always felt like a doofus for not liking this movie as much as other people. I found it boring for long stretches, and too concerned with nudity and gore when it would have been better off going for atmospheric and creepy. I feel like ol' H.P.'s stories "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and "Dagon" deserve better, but I seem to be in the minority on this.

Stacie Ponder said...

Come on, everybody...let's get him!!

I don't think you're alone in that opinion at all, actually...quite the opposite. It would be interesting to see what a more moody, serious approach would be like. I'd be down to watch another go at the source material, why not?

Riccardo said...

I didn't know how much I missed your reviews until this week.

I'm assuming the horrific event mentioned above is the "wicked gross" ending you didn't want to spoil and I'm not sure I'm up for that just now (it's probably not as bad as I'm imagining, but even so...).

Will there be a summary recap after you finish the week? What surprised you, what let you down, was the whole thing worth it?

(I'm still waiting for your portmanteau expression ____nanigans to appear. You used the proper word "shenanigans" in the N4S review but, truth be told, I was a little disappointed that it wasn't "nudenanigans" or "nudienanigans," or suchlike.)

Merrill Womach said...

I'm always surprised to hear that people don't like this one. Of all of Gordon's movies this one seems to elevate above campy fun and into atmospheric dread, yet it's still entertaining from beginning to end.

Bill the Butcher said...

I loved this movie for the same reason as I hated "Necronomicon" - because (unlike the latter) - it was in the pure spirit of Lovecraft. It doesn't have to be a retelling of HP's stories to be Lovecraftian, it just has to fit the mood. This film does both.

There's another thing - HP's stories always reduced humans to bit players, observers and helpless debris storm-tossed by forces they can't comprehend. That's why relatively unknown actors needed to be used for this film. Not bloody action stars with their egos.

That's why I am actually grateful Guillermo del Toro's plan to film "At the Mountains of Madness" fell through. He wanted Tom Cruise in the title role! *Tom Cruise*! The guy who can never play anything but himself and hog the screen!

Unknown said...

there's an aspect of some of lovecraft's stories that doesn't get discussed: i guess you would call it "self-realization". at the end of "shadow over innsmouth" and "the outsider", the narrators find their true natures. and though they have been horrified previously, as they accept what they truly are they get happy. and this is supposed to be disturbing. but when i discovered ole HP back when i was about 12 or so, swimming off under the sea to take one's place among the other fish people wasn't half as sceery as getting on that damn school bus once again.