Director: Stuart Gordon
Dagon is a wonderfully strange horror film directed by Stuart Gordon and adapted from the H.P. Lovecraft short stories, Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Crafted in gothic atmosphere and dripping with moody visual delights, this homage to Lovecraft is something of a special gem, bringing to life the outstandingly haunting writings of the legendary scribe while etching out its own unique style, filled with gore and a handful of disturbing moments. With a tendency towards the obscure, Stuart Gordon has manifested a macabre tale packed with so much mystery, wildly imagined creatures, and a mesmerizing cinematic lore, that you really have to witness the weirdness for yourself. You won’t be disappointed but you will be highly disturbed by its potent effects.
The film follows a young couple, Paul and Barbara, as they become stranded in a bizarre fishing village named Imboca after a freak storm forces them to abandon their boat. Feeling like a fish out of water, the two explore the odd village only to come to the horrible realization that the denizens of this town are followers of an ancient sea god named Dagon, and to make matters more bizarre their intermingling with this god have transformed them into horribly disfigured creatures. The deformed citizens of Imboca descend upon the couple, ripping them apart in an attempt to strip the skin from their bones in order to use it to cover their hideous deformities. As horrible as this is, Paul comes to realize a more ghastly truth, that he may have ties to this monstrous cult. Can the two lovers survive this nightmare or will they be permanent residents of the vengeful god Dagon and his half-human followers? Damn you Dagon! Damn you to hell!
Ezra Godden plays the role of Paul Marsh, the male half of the monster plagued couple. The character of Paul is a tricky one, because he comes off as a goof for most of the picture, but gradually begins to grow a pair as the film moves along and he is forced to defend himself and save the woman that he cares about. It’s not that different of a role from most any horror hero that we’ve seen before, but it is the execution of that character’s personality by Ezra that makes him stand out a bit from the bunch. It’s understandable that he is taken aback by all of the monstrous things that he sees in this film and he manages to escape his pursuers in each situation, but he does it in such a clumsy manner that it comes off as more of a series of slapstick moments than anything else. Strangely enough, the unorthodox approach to his character seems to work, and Ezra’s performance comes off as feeling like a homage to such roles as Bruce Campbell’s Ash in The Evil Dead series or Jeffrey Combs’ Herbert West in the Re-Animator, which is not surprising because it is Stuart Gordon’s masterpiece. The combination of Ezra’s style of acting and Stuart Gordon’s silly yet horror driven direction, is a match made in heaven, and it’s this mixture that really gives Dagon its signature feel.
Raquel Merono plays the role of Barbara, the beautiful and feisty girlfriend of Paul. Although she often disappears for large moments at a time, she still leaves a lasting impression on the film and often gets right into the action when the time comes for it. Raquel gets put through the ringer in this film, much like her onscreen beau Ezra, and she’s given some pretty uncomfortable moments throughout the narrative that allow her to show off her acting chops when it comes to showcasing a person being terrified out of their damned mind. Plus Raquel has the misfortune, at least for her, to be subjected to a more revealing display of horror, ala the birthday suit torture scene near the end of the film. All in all, she may not be the most dynamic and expressive actress of her time, but she really throws herself into the role of Barbara, and comes out of the experience battered, bruised, and broken, just like every great horror vet should. I’ve also found her role in Brian Yuzna’s Beneath Still Waters to be another guilty pleasure of mine.
The two leads are wonderful in their respective roles, but there is one actress that literally steals the limelight of the film and runs with it as she hypnotizes the audience with her haunting allure and sensual depiction of a most jaded and confused character, and that would be Macarena Gomez as the eccentric Uxia Cambarro. It was Macarena’s first appearance in this film that really captured me when I first witnessed it many years ago. Her performance is simply enchanting, as she puts her heart and soul into the conflicted character of Uxia. You can see the pain in her eyes and the longing to be with Paul, so much so that it almost makes you uncomfortable to be witnessing such a powerful moment. Now I don’t want to be overenthusiastic about her performance, because the film really doesn’t aim to be some kind of dramatic revelation, but Macarena ups the stakes in her performance and in doing so, elevates the film into a whole other stratosphere when she comes onscreen. The only word that I can come up with is haunting. After seeing her in Dagon and then catching her energetic performance in Sexy Killer, she easily makes my list of top 10 enigmatic and mesmerizing actresses.
Comparative to Macarena’s exceptional acting, is the overall look of the film. The decision to film on location in this small fishing village is sheer brilliance. The rain drenched town is a character in itself, bringing enough brooding visuals and imposing overtones to make this film a juggernaut of atmospheric proportions. The tone is laid thick by these impressive locations and you really can’t deny the genuine pull that they generate when viewed through Stuart Gordon’s cinematic lens. With such a powerful locale, you need an equally immersive set of characters to fill up the scenery and Dagon is no slouch in that department. We’re treated to a plethora of disturbing monsters, all with their own unique deformities and mutations. The creatures are a wild smorgasbord of bizarre features containing slimy tentacles, razor sharp teeth, unsightly gills, and grotesque webbed feet. The effects team does an amazing job in bringing these horrid deformations to life, blending the citizens’ aquatic features with the look and feel of the water logged town to perfection, joining them into one big soaking cesspool of morbid oddities. It’s safe to say that this film is something of a unique blend, filled with Lovecraftian lore and Stuart Gordon style, and that is one awesome combination, plus it’s brutal as all hell. Count me in!
Dagon is a special little film that hits the ground running and never lets up until its climactic finale that really pushes the envelope on “what the fuck” moments. With an exceptional cast of unknown talent, the filmmakers were able to allow the unfamiliarity of their crew to enhance the overall lucid portrayal of a fishing town pulled from a nightmare. Ezra Godden, Raquel Merono, and Macarena Gomez do a commendable job with some rather heavy and demanding material, and each of them do what they can in order to keep the flow of the story moving. Macarena Gomez especially lights up the screen when she appears, giving the film a breath of fresh air that propels it to its miraculous conclusion.
The location of the seaside town is absolutely essential to the morbid feel of the movie and the overwhelmingly creepy look of the village is just too perfect for words. The locales just ooze Lovecraftian wonder, and I doubt the filmmakers could have found a more fitting place if they tried. The atmosphere and overall tone of Dagon is just impeccable, capturing the mystery of Lovecraft’s writings and presenting it in a vivid light that has never been seen on the cinematic screen before and most likely won’t for some time to come. I’m always swept away by this creepy tale of fish people who worship an unruly sea god named Dagon, and I never can get used to the hypnotizing allure of Macarena Gomez and her cult of sea creatures. Check out this obscure wonder as soon as you can. Dagon is an…..
|This village is so DAGON cool!|
|I think I just peed my pants.|
|There's no place like home. There's no place like home.|
|This bitch is CRAZY!|
|Looks like Paul's hooked on this town.|
|There's a lot of creeps wandering around the town of Imboca.|
|Dude seriously.... lose the black framed glasses. You look like an asshole.|
|What are you up to you little sneak?|
|Get ready, cause I'm about to make one epic fart.|
|Whatever you do, don't look under the blanket. Trust me.|
|You just keep making love to that wall pervert!|
|I'm going to cut you with this sacred golden butter knife.|
|On second thought... I think I'll pass on that Lasik eye surgery.|
|Looks like someone's ready for dinner.|
|What the hell did you just say about my hat?|
|Dagon..... come out to play!|
|Nooooo! She was a hand model you bastards!|
|Paul... I am your father. Ewww!|