Dagon Spain | 98 mins | Fantasy/Horror/Mystery/Thriller | Color
A shipwrecked couple raft to a local fishing town on the Spanish coast for help, only the residents of Imboca aren’t quite what they were expecting. Based off Lovecraft’s The Shadow of Innsmouth, it is named after Lovecraft’s short story Dagon, which borrows elements for the film. Dagon is the fourth film based off Lovecraft directed by Stuart Gordon, the others being Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Castle Freak. The screenplay was written by Dennis Paoli, who also has writing credits on all three films just mentioned. Gordon and Paoli had originally intended Dagon to be filmed in 1985, yet instead it would be in some form of production for over 15 years.
Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) and his girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Meroño) are vacationing with a middle-aged couple, Vicki (Birgit Bofarull) and Howard (Brendan Price), on their boat. Below deck Paul awakes from a dream where he found a gold medallion while scuba diving with a mermaid. Paul seems slightly paranoid as Barbara attempts comforting him, but it leads to a spat between the two. Barbara lights a cigarette to Paul’s disapproval, saying, “It’s Howards boat. He doesn’t mind.” Paul opens the lid on his laptop to monitor stock figures in retaliation. Barbara grabs the laptop and runs to the deck and throws it into the sea. As they stand arguing Vicki speaks, saying, “Would you children mind moving? There is only a little sun left and you’re standing in it.”
The situation now seemingly calm at the moment, Howard asks Vicki if she remembers how they use to fight “like that.” Vicki says, “Except I would have thrown you overboard.” Howard replies, “It would have been cheaper.” Barbara notices music in the distance coming from a local village on the coast. Howard suggests it might be a religious festival. As Vicki goes below to freshen up, the sky turns dark as a storm comes in rapidly. Barbara pulls up the anchor as mist covers the boat. A glass of wine slides off, shattering on the deck as the boat is blown into rocks, where Vicki has her leg pinned in the wreckage.
As Barbara and Paul take the raft for help the motor dies and a leak starts. They hear gun shots in the distance coming from the boat. Barbara suggests to Paul throwing the motor into the sea and grabbing an oar to start paddling. They arrive safely at the docks but there are no people in the streets. Barbara points them in the direction of the church, where she says the music was coming from. As Paul approaches the church he has a flashback to his dream once seeing the symbol and words above the church doors reading “Esoterica Orde De Dagon”. They push the doors open, looking around in the bizarre church until a man in a black robe enters. Barbara speaks to him in Spanish and he takes them to the docks, where he negotiates a boat ride from fishermen. Only he informs them one must stay to notify the police. Paul insists on going on the boat and ends up with a fish hook in his palm for his trouble.
On the dock Barbara struggles to find service with her cellphone when she notices the man in the black robes pointing to the town has webbed fingers. Spooked, Barbara takes off towards the town and witnesses many strange individuals as she progresses through the streets until arriving at the hotel. The man at the hotel remains silent as Barbara becomes irritated by his stoic presence, leading to a physical altercation between the two and the man in the black robes. Paul arrives at the boat only finding Vicki’s blood-soaked towel, and no Vicki or Howard. Once Paul arrives back at the dock, the man in the black robes informs him Barbara has traveled 15 kilometers to inform the police and that he is to wait for her at the hotel, as she’ll be back in an hour. At the hotel Paul finds Barbara’s lighter and notices that the mute man, as he turns to get the keys to a room, has slits on the sides of his neck like gills.
Soon Paul, in his Miskatonic long-sleeve shirt, realizes something is dreadfully wrong in the town as he witnesses through his room window a mob merging together outside the hotel. It’s when they see him one of them calls out, gathering all of their attention to descend upon Paul’s room. Paul leaps out of the upstairs window, crashing through a glass ceiling below where he hides among hanging human skins as the townsfolk search the room he’s in. He remains calm until he sees one of the human skins is Howard, causing him to vocalize his name and giving away his position. Paul starts a fire to escape and comes across an elderly man who informs him Barbara has been killed by the townsfolk. He says, “No one leaves Imboca. People come, no one leaves.” He goes on telling Paul a story from the past about how the town went from worshiping the Christian God to worshiping a new deity that would ensure the town fish and gold. Alone with only the elderly man, Paul attempts to escape the nightmarish town, but his destiny has already been written unbeknownst to him.
Dagon captures the most Lovecraftian atmosphere that I have seen on film. The town is dreary with constant rain. The townsfolk slither and groan all around, up, and down the rain-soaked streets. The repulsive nature of the environment slowly increases the deeper we find ourselves in the town of Imboca, which includes a sink that sprays greenish-looking water that causes Paul to gag. The bizarre world borderlines the hysterical, leaving laughs followed by haunts immediately one after another. Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli contribute positively to the infection of H. P. Lovecraft in cinema. I give it 3 out of 5 for a rating of Really Good.
The Malcolm Scale