July 10, 2011

Dagon (2001)

"Two couples out for an innocent sailing jaunt are forced by a violent storm to take shelter in a fishing village. But once safely moored, they realize it might have been better to stay at sea. Seems the local villagers worship a sea god named Dagon."

Searching through Netflix for something that I haven't already seen led me to Stuart Gordon's "Dagon" last night. Having seen quite a few of his films in the past and being somewhat intrigued by H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, I thought I'd give it a go.

Well, that was 98 minutes of my life which I'll never get back, and all wasted on something which was so bad that it barely entertained me. How did the director of such great horror films as "Re-Animator" (1985) and "From Beyond" (1986) go so wrong? Let me try to tell you.

The truth is that the Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna collaborations are often more misses than hits. Some of it has to do with the budget, some of it has to do with their fondness for working with cheaper Spanish casts, but most of it is because they just don't seem to care about polishing the final product all that much. Though not nearly as bad as the stuff put out by The Asylum or Roger Corman, all the later works from Gordon and Yuzna rank right down there with them.

Transferring anything by H.P. Lovecraft to film has also often met with disaster. I don't really like many of his short stories, but there is a definite atmosphere and weirdness to them which doesn't come across well in film. I could list some of the other feeble Lovecraft adaptations as a comparison, but it would, unfortunately, just be reciting all the mainstream ones that you already know. Paradoxically, some of the best Lovecraftian horror movies aren't even based on specific stories at all but are merely inspired by his literary works in general.

"Dagon" actually failed for me not because of any liberties taken with the source material but primarily because of the film's sound. I'm sure that it had nothing to do with my Roku box although the only way to describe it was that it overly loud, flat and in mono. Everything had the same volume, and it sounded like it was also badly overdubbed. If you have the DVD version, you can let me know if it's the same as I find it hard to believe that something that sounds this bad would be released intentionally.

It's a shame because it started so well with an underwater jump scare which turned out to be a nightmare but then went rapidly downhill afterwards. Already alienated by the way the film sounded, I couldn't get into the atmosphere, I didn't like or care about the characters, especially the nerdy hero, and I really hated the extremely bad CGI that kept cropping up, not that many of the practical effects were any better.

The acting was wooden, there were no subtitles whenever anyone spoke Spanish (though it was also a weird sounding form of Spanish as far as I could tell), and the homeless guy, Ezequiel, who tried to fill in the backstory, had an accent so thick that he was completely unintelligible.

On the plus side, the sets looked really good and the girls in this were pretty hot. The mermaid with tentacle legs (or whatever she was supposed to be) was nice to look at from the waist up although Raquel Meroño as Bárbara (pictured below) really stole the show. I don't think I've ever seen a girl quite so ginger who looked so sexy.

Overall, "Dagon" was quite boring for me but had a few ridiculous effects which perked me up occasionally and a Doctor Who-esque storyline with just as many plotholes. None of it really made all that much sense to me and the more I thought about it, the worse it became. I've already seen far too many of these Lovecraft-style stories about couples getting stranded in bizarre villages (including the "Crouch End" one from Stephen King's "Nightmares and Dreamscapes" TV series which was equally disappointing) and so there just wasn't anything particularly new here.

Of course, some of the problems were, as I already said, to do with the distancing nature of the source material but most of them were a result of poor technical execution. I can't believe that this was rated at nearly 4 out 5 stars on Netflix and 6.3/10 on the IMDb. I'd give it 2 out of 10 and that's just for each of the pretty actresses based on nothing but their looks.

I'm almost entirely convinced that "Dagon" has been overrated because of the nude scenes and the demasking/skinning alive of Ezequiel (played by the late Francisco Rabal to whom the film is dedicated). Apparently, from the sheer number of film credits which he has on the IMDb, Francisco Rabal can be somewhat likened to a Spanish version of Christopher Lee and must have an enormous fanbase, but I'd never heard of him before and couldn't understand a word he said.

The rushed ending of "Dagon" was one of those completely messed up moments in film which makes no sense to anyone looking for consistency. Since it's now over 10 years old, and you've read this far, I might as well spoil it completely for you by telling you that the nerdy Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) found out that the sexy mermaid Uxía Cambarro (Macarena Gómez) was his sister and they were both children of the sea-god Dagon. After seeing his even more sexy, ginger girlfriend get her arms torn off (and then apparently eaten by a multi-tentacled sea monster), he poured a can of petrol over himself, set himself on fire rather than live with the knowledge that he was really the son of a fish, and then got dragged underwater by his sister. Although horribly burned, he appeared to actually be enjoying his new undersea life. I still couldn't help but think that the whole pointless setting fire to himself thing was something he'd really regret later.

"Dagon" is, of course, going straight into The Dungeon, although it really deserves to be drowned instead. Please don't ever be bored enough to watch it even out of curiosity.

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