Dagon (2001), straight up Lovecraft

There’s something to be said for a faithful adaptation, but sometimes the changes work out. This movie is pretty true to the original short story except for the setting, and that change of location makes the story even more satisfying. So let’s dive in.

Dagon (Movie Review) | Bloody Good Horror
Macarena Gómez as Uxía Cambarro

The film is an adaptation of the classic H.P. Lovecraft story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, wherein a small fishing community is taken over by a sinister cult. Director Stuart Gordon just loves Lovecraft, but as always has adapted the story to modern times and it is wonderful. They made the (probably financial) decision to shoot in Spain, but instead of pretending to be somewhere else like so many low-budget films do, they decided to embrace it, turning Innsmouth into Imboca.

After a boat crash with his friends Howard and Vicki (Brendan Price and Birgit Bofarull), the protagonist, Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) and his Spanish girlfriend Bárbara (Raquel Meroño), find themselves in the small town trying to find help for their friends. By setting the film there, the protagonist faces a language barrier that only adds to his sense of discomfort and helplessness. Even Bárbara is out of place as a Spanish-speaker in a town that speaks Catalán. At first I was like, “oh cool, representation for the minority Catalán community” but then my husband pointed out “they’re all evil fish people, though”.

So… fish people. Glorious, practical make-up effects. Some of them make dolphin noises. It’s great. But, alas, this is also tempered by some very dodgy CG effects at points, which are completely distracting. Honestly, those effects are the only thing keeping this from being a perfect movie for me. (Also, why do they collect skins, though?) The acting is all good for a low-budget foreign production. Ezequiel (Francisco Raban) is a great old-school wino character, and he even has the acting chops to pull off a huge expository scene. So there’s a good range of humour, drama, and horror.

This movie altogether lived up to my expectations for the creator of Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986). It’s not perfect, but it is fun and makes the most of its status as an adaptation rather than being too cute with the source material. If you like Lovecraft, I would say this is essential viewing. It’s free on Tubi! But be forewarned, the subtitles don’t translate the dialogue in Catalán so if you don’t know that language and/or Spanish you will have a hard time.

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