Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Fish Don’t Carry Guns: Dagon (2001)

Two American couples, vacationing on a yacht somewhere off the coast of Spain, run into trouble when a violent storm rages in and tosses the vessel onto a rock. The younger couple, Barbara (Macarena Gomez) and Paul (Ezra Godden), take a dingy to the mainland for help while the other couple (the skipper and his injured wife) stay aboard the sinking craft and hope for the best. Paul and Barbara reach the shore and find themselves wandering the serpentine streets of an ancient fishing village looking for someone to help. A group of very strange fishermen offer to take Paul back to the yacht to save the others, while Barbara stays behind with the village priest. But when Paul returns to the yacht, the water has flooded the interior of the craft and his two friends are nowhere to be found. Paul returns to the village, which is now cloaked in night and the fury of the storm, to retrieve Barbara and to find somewhere warm and comfortable to gather his thoughts. Unfortunately, Barbara has disappeared from the hotel she was supposedly staying in and no one in the village—including the priest—seems able to help. Soon, it’s obvious to Paul that the villagers are not exactly . . . human. Chased, beaten, clawed, and generally freaked out, Paul meets up with an old man (Francisco Rabal) who has been living among the creatures since his youth, and the two of them team-up against the horrible tide of amphibious monsters.

Director Stuart Gordon, the man responsible for some of the most enjoyable B-movies of the last couple of decades (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Fortress), here gets a chance to finally realize his dream of bringing H. P. Lovecraft’s classic short story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” to the big screen, with a little borrowed from the story “Dagon” as well. Rich in visual ideas and suspense, Dennis Paoli’s screenplay is also the first on-screen Lovecraft adaptation that has convincingly contained a truly passive protagonist in the Lovecraft mold. Un-heroic, scared, and generally irritating, Paul nevertheless becomes courageous by being forced into getting out of increasingly dire situations. He has no choice but to react and fight, even though his natural instinct is to curl into a little ball and cry. And though Lovecraft himself would’ve no doubt loathed Gordon’s gleeful depictions of aberrant sex, explicit gore, and other Grand Guignol delectations, Dagon is faithful to Lovecraft’s overall mood of cosmic nihilism. It isn’t perfect, but until a director more attuned to Lovecraft’s philosophical ideas and epic visuals (or until a major studio decides to fund such an obvious big budget endeavor) comes around, Dagon will do just fine.

Available on DVD from Lion's Gate Home Entertainment.

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