Dagon (2002)
Directed by Stuart Gordon

Starring Brendan Price Ezra Godden Francisco Rabal Macarena Gómez Raquel Meroño

Stuart Gordon hadn't directed a horror film since 1995's mixed bag of a movie "Castle Freak," which starred "Re-Animator" alums Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, but failed to come close to that original movie's greatness. One gets the sense that the starring role in "Dagon" – a nerdy yuppie played by Godden – may have actually been written with Combs in mind for the role. But "Dagon" actually benefits from the fact that it doesn't have "Re-Animator" cast members to constantly remind us about the kind of films Gordon used to make.

"Dagon" is Gordon's best effort in over a decade, but it's such an original film and so unlike the "Re-Animator" style camp Gordon is known and loved for, some fans may be disappointed. Once they get over the fact that this isn't a horror-comedy with Herbert West, most fans should realize they're watching one of the best horror films in years. Perhaps that sounds a little snobby, but "Dagon" is a great movie that hearkens back to an era when horror films didn't have martial arts and in-jokes. "Dagon" is a serious fear film. We need more like it.

Yuppie American Godden and his great-looking Spanish wife are on vacation in the Mediterranean when a boating accident forces them to search for help in a nearby fishing village -- where residents give strange stares and speak broken English. Needless to say, the townsfolk don't exactly have the young couple's interests at heart, kidnapping the wife and chasing the husband all over town. Another thing: People on the island appear to be morphing into fish creatures and have a penchant for skinning the faces off of outsiders and wearing them like masks, a la Leatherface in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

When our yuppie hero runs across a drunk (Rabal) who has managed not to join up with the local fish people, he learns that the island worships a monster known as Dagon, which forces them to make human sacrifices so that they can become human-fish creatures that live forever. OK. So this sounds stupid. But Gordon's film is actually a remarkably terrifying effort that combines some of the best elements from "The Wicker Man," "Island of the Damned," "Texas," "Night of the Living Dead" and, of course, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (which Gordon helped turn into a remake in the 1990s). The scariest moment of the film might be Rabal's retelling of the town's history, and how it came to turn its back on Christianity and worship a sea monster.

Known for being a more faithful adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story than what normally gets made in Hollywood (this film was actually produced in Spain if anyone's wondering), "Dagon" takes itself more seriously than your average Stuart Gordon/Brian Yuzna production. Although not a crowd pleaser like "From Beyond" or "Re-Animator," it manages to be genuinely scary. Unfortunately, in an age when horror fans are becoming increasingly more interested in seeing martial arts, action and goofball comedy blended in with their fear films, "Dagon" may have trouble finding a solid audience. But it is, nonetheless, one of Stuart Gordon's best and hardcore horror lovers should certainly enjoy it.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

Posted by on March 20, 2009

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