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Movie Review: Dagon

With any movie purporting to be based on Lovecraft there is for the aficionado a sense of dread in the background of all viewings of the latest attempt to film the basically unfilmable. Thus it was when my friend called me up and told me he had seen a new HPL movie in the store entitled Dagon.

Contrary to what the title suggests the movie is actually loosely based on the Lovecraft story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” not “Dagon” which immediately starts the alarm bells ringing and the fact it is set off the Spanish coast ( the movie was actually a Spanish co-production ) is another notch against it, to go crazy in metaphor mixing. All these forebodings are not helped by the creative team for the movie ( Director Stuart Gordon and Co-Producer Brian Yuzna ) who are responsible for the less than fantastic Re-Animator, which is at least based on the story of the same name and although I personally have a soft spot for the tale ( written like so many of Lovecraft’s works from a dream ) it is one of his lesser pieces and an odd choice to develop into a motion picture.

So I think it is fair to say that I sat down to watch “Dagon” with a less than open mind.

My fears were not allayed by the opening scenes ( after a good introduction with a creepy underwater dream sequence ) wherein the main characters, who personality wise are perhaps best described as “wankers” and exactly the sort of fodder one wishes to see killed off in a horror flick, are introduced. This is the beginnings of a seemingly endless succession of terrible clichés, ill-thought out scenes and inane moments which I will not labour over. The plot, with more than a few deviations and outright liberties, follows at least the basic structure of Lovecraft’s original Innsmouth story and the climax is actually more from the eponymous tale ( if one allows a generous helping of “artistic” license) than cut out of the air. In short Dagon is a flawed film and certain far from an ideal re-creation of Lovecraft’s work. But is it enjoyable? Most certainly.

Let us focus on some of the positives. The creepy weirdness of the folk of Imboca ( the substitute Innsmouth in the movie ) and their deserted town is well done as is the drunken Zadok Allen character. The titular monster is kept largely imaginary yet having a certain effect when he (it?) puts in the briefest of appearances, the ending is true to the original tale and most importantly Lovecraft’s overall spirit of malignity and the sense that good will not triumph in the end ‘just because…’ is certainly present. The use of direct quotes from his work likewise adds a grandeur that perhaps such dross doesn’t really deserve.

It is certainly both more visceral and sexual than anything Lovecraft wrote ( I don’t recall people being skinned alive in the original tale ) and the final scenes could come straight from a pulp era cover with helpless damsels and ritual sacrifice but oddly as a whole the movie works, if you accept from the beginning that HPL has gotten his standard Hollywood hacking.

So to conclude Dagon is a better than average foray into the ideas and world of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, far from a masterpiece but a cut above the standard of such films which generally range from disgraceful to awful.

This review was submitted by Duncan.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 1st, 2005 at 7:00 pm and is filed under Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

 

4 Responses to “Movie Review: Dagon”

  1. Chris Clubb Wrote:

    Dear Duncan
    I really agree with you, but actually the stories are two in one within the movie of “Dagon”,there is
    some inconsistences, bettween “Dagon” & “Shadow Over Innsmouth”, isn’t there a time period just before, which
    one starts first at all. I have read only “Rats in the Walls, and “The Thing On The doorstep”, and “The Lurking Fear”, what can you tell me your personal opinions on my
    question, and my view. I collect all Lovecraft movies, but
    my take on “Dagon” is really , the character development ,
    why couldn’t Sturt Gordon come up with a better script in
    the first place, and why couldn’t he himshelf film the storie located in the place of Providence Rhode Island at all. We could of seen a better film , I have an interesting letter to write to you about this, and more
    later on, but you have a very nice day and have a nice
    “New Year” thanks a million , this is the best website
    ever, your staff has done a very good job on keeping up with creating something new everyday. Thanks once again.
    Chris Clubb

  2. Rodr-Evil Wrote:

    Recently I saw this film and the only thing that it has of Lovecraft is the title. Not very bad, but not very good.

  3. Alvaro Medina Wrote:

    What is the problem with the spanish set? Maybe HPL is exclusive to anglo-saxon and europeans? I’d like a room-o please-o, muchas dias.

  4. Sarah Jumel Wrote:

    The reason for the skinning is economical, the old Thousands of Zombies, One Creature of the Black Lagoon problem. It is a lot cheaper to make real humans look dead than to make them look like aquatic changelings, so if you have the aquatic changelings wear human skins your financial problems are solved.
    I myself was made happy by the partial changes, like the guy on crutches who had a big tentacle where a leg should be, and the pretty girl with unclosing eyes who had tentacles for legs and thus had to use a wheelchair (and had a nice billing spike crown to boot.)

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