Lionsgate // 2001 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 13th, 2002
H.P Lovecraft presents a new breed of terror!
Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) and his sexy girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Meroño) are celebrating the success of their new company by vacationing out off the coast of Spain on a friend's yacht. When a storm suddenly rolls in and crashes their boat into a reef, Paul and Barbara man an inflatable life raft and head for the costal town of Imboca for help. Upon arriving the couple senses that all is not right in this quaint little fishing village. For one thing, the islanders are a little too bashful and distant. For another, they all appear to have gills, tentacles, and webbed hands! By the time the sun sets on Imboca, Paul finds himself stranded and hunted by the local townsfolk! As Paul desperately tries to outmaneuver his attackers and locate Barbara, he finds out that the town's history is seeped in blood and the god of choice is a hideous monster from the deep named "Dagon!"
Let's take two random movies, oh say the horror classic Night of the Living Dead and the Christian Slater action flop Hard Rain. What might happen if you were to mash these two movies together? Maybe something like director Stuart Gordon's Dagon! Surprisingly chilling and fantastically entertaining, Dagon is a simple, straightforward horror movie that moves at the speed of lightning. We already knew that Gordon could do right by both horror and Lovecraft (proof positive: Gordon's adaptation of Lovecraft's wild Re-Animator), so it's no surprise to find Dagon to be one of the best horror movies in the last five years. The first 45 minutes are filled with such taut, tight thrills that you'd swear you'd been plopped into Imboca along with poor Paul! Gordon shot Dagon in Spain, which was where it was shown theatrically (a real bummer for US horror fans). The actors are all mostly English or Spanish with only a handful of American actors running around the film. English actor Ezra Godden receives a "Best Jeffery Combs Impersonation" award as our flustered hero Paul. Sporting thick rimmed glasses and slicked black hair (as well as a sweatshirt that humorously reads "Miskatonic" on the front), Godden is the incarnation of Herbert West, except with a heart of gold. The rest of the cast (including a bunch of foreign actresses who like baring their boobs) all do a fine job of shuffling around in the pouring rain while maniacally squealing like tortured pigs. On par with an official Stuart Gordon movie, Dagon features oodles of blood and gore. Peeled faces, torn limbs, and nasty stabbings will please even the most discriminating horror tastes. There's even a few chuckles in the screenplay, not to mention a great aside about the size of a man's...cell phone. And did I mention that this movie is freakin' scary? Aside of a few missteps (some cheesy CGI graphics that look woefully out of place), Dagon is a flick to savor and devour. The production values are top notch, the story engaging and the horror oh-so-tasty...
Dagon is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. For such a low budget feature, Lions Gate has done a very nice job of making sure this print is crisp and clean. While there's a few instances of dirt and edge enhancement, overall I was impressed with how sharp this transfer looked. The soundtrack is presented in a very aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix in English. Like the video presentation, this audio mix is very good -- the bass is often heard rumbling low while directional effects come in fast and often, which is essential if a horror movie is to be successfully creepy. There were a few moments where the soundtrack wasn't quite as discrete as I would have liked, though otherwise this will do wonders on a surround sound system. Also included on the disc are Spanish and English subtitles.
While Dagon may not be packed to the brim with extra features, it does include a few informative supplements starting with two commentary tracks, one by Stuart Gordon and writer Dennis Paoli and a second by Gordon and actor Ezra Godden. Both of these tracks are packed with production info and historical tidbits on the original short story and Lovecraft. I really enjoyed listening to Gordon, who seems like a thoughtful, articulate guy who just happens to make some pretty gross movies! Also included on this disc are some storyboards sketches from the production, some production artwork/conceptual sketches, a theatrical trailer for the film, and some hidden trailers under the "Lions Gate" insignia for other DVD releases.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary by Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli
* Commentary by Ezra Godden and Stuart Gordon
* Production Artwork
* The H.P. Lovecraft Archives