REVIEW: DVD Release: Dagon

Film: Dagon
Release date: 2nd February 2004
Certificate: 18
Running time: 94 mins
Director: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Meroño, Macarena Gómez, Brendan Price
Genre: Fantasy/Horror/Mystery/Thriller
Studio: Prism Leisure
Format: DVD
Country: Spain

Even at its peak, Dagon was the sort of movie one could only get in bargain bins. There is little risk when buying a DVD for £1 that it won’t provide at least that amount’s worth of entertainment. It is one of a rare breed of horror film that really goes for it; cashing in on shock value and mixing it up with big themes and ideas, despite being made on an impossibly tight budget. Dagon is hard to ignore, because not only is it from the makers of the acclaimed Reanimator series, and based on a cult H.P. Lovecraft story, but, most importantly, it’s about evil fish-men.

The Story follows Paul and Barbara, a recently wealthy couple who have gone sailing to Spain with some friends in their yacht. After a freak storm causes them to hit a rock, they are forced to seek help in a nearby village.

The couple are separated and Paul finds himself running for his life from the mysterious fish-men that inhabit the village. As his flight for survival takes him from one terror to another, he unravels the secret of the Cult of Dagon…

The most notable thing about Dagon is that it whizzes by with a really kinetic pace to it. After a short introduction, we panic through the film with Paul, scrambling to get to the next scene and, at times, left quite short for breath.

Despite being a primarily action based film, there is still a coherent and involving story. From the film’s inception, there is a strong foregrounding of dreams and nightmares. This is both expressed through visuals and dialogue. The central theme of Dagon is the idea that dreams and nightmares are one and the same, a vision of our deepest primal desires. The things we truly desire can be something we fear on the surface. This is explored throughout, and echoes of the short stories that the film is based on.

Dagon is a very loose adaptation of both Dagon and The Call of Cthulu by H.P. Lovecraft. The details of the plot have changed, although the themes and atmosphere are still intact. The works of Lovecraft are notoriously difficult to adapt to film, however Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna are brave enough to try time and time again, playing with Yuzna’s own concept of a plastic reality. As with Reanimator and Necronomicon, Dagon is littered with Lovecraft references, such as Paul’s ‘Miskatonic University’ sweater (the university from Reanimator and many other Lovecraft stories).

The main role of Paul is played by Ezra Godden, who has also appeared in numerous TV shows, and recently lent his voice to the computer game Dragon Ages: Origins. His performance in Dagon could be said to be a little wobbly. Nevertheless, overall he conveys a believable character in an impossible situation, and draws the viewer to root for his survival. Paul is a relatively everyday man, with little in the way of heroics and easily overwhelmed. We see him frequently retreat within his own mind, leaving the viewer faced with a trembling shell, adding gravity to the moments where poor effects would otherwise make us laugh.

The supporting cast also play a valuable role. Raquel Morono’s performance as Barbara contributes to Paul’s character by highlighting just how passive and spineless he is with her Hispanic fire. The late Francisco Rabal, to whom the film is dedicated, plays a drunken tramp. His awkward incoherence, and the way he wanders aimlessly between Spanish and broken English presents us with an impeccably accurate portrayal of a chronic alcoholic hobo.

The scenery of the village conjures an outstanding atmosphere of unseen peril. Once the rain begins to pour down, every surface becomes ominously dark and reflective. Shadows constantly flicker and move. The entire village transforms from the sundrenched drenched idyll in to a large scale haunted house, but the horrors in this haunted house are real.

The fish-men make for great monstrous villains, sometimes appearing like an aquatic zombie horde there are so many of them. More than zombies, the fish-men are a diverse bunch of monsters that come in many forms. Some are mostly human, others are mostly fish. Some talk, some walk and some are muscle-bound titans. They talk in their own crazy language, which sounds like dolphins shouting abuse at each other with its eerie clicks and squeaks. The makeup and effects used for the fish-men are really effective at instilling both fear and disgust, far surpassing anything you might have seen in old Dr Who episodes.

Since it’s a true diehard horror film, there are numerous gory set pieces, and there are a lot of special effects in play throughout Dagon. These special effects achieve mixed success, with much of it laughable, and some of it truly impressive. For the most part, Dagon features gore that is done with prosthetics and fake blood; however, there are some creature effects that have been added by some embarrassing CGI. The pinnacle of the gore involves a man’s skin being peeled from his face whilst he is still alive and screaming, so do be prepared if you are squeamish!

Dagon really is a film that puts the ‘bargain’ in ‘bargain bin’, but it will give you more than a pound’s worth of fun. It may not change your life, and it does have some failings, but it certainly has an interesting story, and thrills that will not be easy to forget. DOB

No comments:

Post a Comment