review by KJ Doughton, 21 June 2002
he brought us a re-animating fluid that looked suspiciously like
Mountain Dew and activated the most ravenous, insatiable zombies
this side of George Romeroís Dead trilogy.
Soon afterwards, he took us to another sensory dimension
where brain-hungry beings roamed free while writhing, worm-like
pineal glands exploded from foreheads.
Since the gory glory days of Re-Animator and From
Beyond (1985 and 1986, respectively), however, director Stuart
Gordon has veered away from horror to tackle big-budget
screenwriting and producing (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids),
sci-fi (Fortress), and fantasy (The Wonderful Ice Cream
heís always thrown his fear-film loyalists a bone here and there (Dolls,
Castle Freak), but his days of being known primarily as a
horror specialist have long since passed.
now. Dagon is Gordonís latest fright film, and itís the
first since From Beyond to really go for the gusto and push
the envelope. While not
a perfect movie, Dagon crams its wild, over-the-top concepts
down our throats with so much conviction that we canít help but
get swept along for the ride. Just like Re-Animator sold us
on the idea of a lecherous severed head, and From Beyond made
a case that the pineal gland might well be the encasement of a sixth
sense, Dagon tosses us onto a Spanish beach where mutant fish
people prey on hapless visitors.
right. Fish people.
you chuckle at such a preposterous concept, try to envision anything
more terrifying than the shark attacks in Jaws. Gordonís aquatic offering couples a fear of the water - and
all that lurks beneath -- with the notion that humans might be
genetically linked to a strain of gill-sprouting sea mutants.
It might sound hokey (indeed, Dagon was passed over by
numerous studios who, in the words of Gordon himself, found the
story "just too damn weird"), but thereís something
inherently creepy about scales, tails, and murky depths that gets
under the skin (Indeed, author H.P. Lovecraft, who provided the
source material for Dagon, allegedly despised fish to the
point of leaving dinner parties where seafood was served).
begins as young lovers Paul (Ezra Godden) and Barbara (Raquel Merono)
toast the success of lucrative business ventures from aboard a
sprawling yacht. Paul comes across as a money-fixated yuppie who prefers
tinkering with his laptop to making out with his frustrated love
interest. Soon, sheís
tossing his computer overboard, and urging him to loosen up.
Unfortunately, the relaxation is short-lived. A freak storm
impales their vessel on a sharp reef, and the duo is forced to
abandon ship. Soon,
they wash up near an unnervingly quiet fishing town.
Residents gradually shuffle out of the woodwork, but they
appear flat, emotionless, and physically incomplete.
Bulging, buggy eyes remain open when they should blink.
Strange, aquatic sounds drift across the village, like murmurs from
a vocal school of dolphins. Clearly, thereís something fishy in
the dilapidated streets of Imboca.
remainder of Dagon sees the couple fending off the growing
legions of mutated townsfolk, through a series of chases. The film
culminates in a scene of ritual sacrifice, with the foxy Merono
dangling over a pit, while a mammoth, barnacled beast chomps at the
bit beneath, eager to snatch up the tasty human morsel.
Think of the climactic set piece from Indiana Jones and
the Temple of Doom, seasoned with a gory twist.
is a larger production then its predecessors, with all the strengths
and weaknesses that this bigger scale entails (or should that be entrails?).
There are scenes shot underwater, on land, and underground,
creating an epic reach, but some are clumsily staged (the opening
storm hosts thunderclouds that look like something recycled from an
outdated Hammer vampire flick you might find on the tube at 2:00
a.m.). Under the strain of this massive scale, much of the fiendish,
witty humor that branded Gordonís earlier Lovecraft-inspired
outings is missing (the film is sparse on dialogue).
However, the directorís legacy lives on with gore galore
and another trademark damsel-in-distress image that falls in line
with Gordonís earlier, rather sexual set-pieces (remember Barbara
Crampton fending off fiends Carl Hill and Dr. Pretorious?).
Gordonís twisted imagination has been re-animated with Dagon.
Call it the dark, scaly underbelly of
"The Little Mermaid."
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
or adult guardian.