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Lions Gate presents
Dagon (2001)

"No one leave Imboca. People come...never leave."
- Ezequiel (Francisco Rabal)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: August 05, 2002

Stars: Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Merono
Other Stars: Macarena Gomez, Brendan Price, Birgit Bofarull, UxŪa Blanco, FerrŠn Lahoz, Alfredo Villa
Director: Stuart Gordon

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (strong violence, gore, sexuality, nudity and language)
Run Time: 01h:38m:15s
Release Date: July 23, 2002
UPC: 658149800229
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Stuart Gordon's horror classic, Re-Animator (1985), has long been a fan favorite, and it really helped cement the symbiotic connection the director has with the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Though there has been a number of Lovecraft-inspired film projects over the years—The Dunwich Horror (1970), Die, Monster, Die! (1965) and Gordon's own From Beyond (1986)—very few have been able to completely capture the pervasive darkness that permeates his writings. Horror fans should be quite pleased that Gordon and Re-Animator screenwriter Dennis Paoli have brought yet another Lovecraft adaptation directly to DVD (at least stateside) with the fishy creepiness that is Dagon.

When a yacht off the coast of Spain crashes into some rocks during a sudden storm, the four occupants are forced to seek help from the eerie fishing village of Imboca. Big mistake. Paul (Band of Brothers Brit, Ezra Godden, here sporting an American accent) and Barbara (Spanish television star Raquel Merono) head ashore, while the injured Vicki (Birgit Bofarull) stays behind, along with husband Howard (Brendan Price). Suffice to say, it becomes clear that things are going to go quite badly for them when the first townsperson they meet is a pasty-faced, web-fingered priest (FerrŠn Lahoz). Without revealing too much more of the story, understand that the remaining ninety minutes are a rain-soaked nightmare of shuffling, mutated villagers, a creepy church, dirty toilets, an incredibly gory face-peeling and the unbelievably sexy, tentacle-legged Uxia (Macarena Gomez).

Dagon is actually a deft merging of two Lovecraft stories (Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth), and the blending by Paoli is almost seamless. There are sequences that are lifted almost directly from the original, much of them dialogue-free, including the tense scene where Paul has to quickly unscrew a lock from one door to re-attach it to another in order to prevent a horde of murderous Imbocans from getting into his hotel room. Though there have been some geographical changes to the story, the Paoli screenplay of Dagon genuinely captures the feel of a Lovecraft story, and Gordon has once again proven himself to be able to reflect that visually, as well.

To keep things a little off balance, the villagers often speak a mixture of Spanish and Gallego, and Gordon refrains from supplying translated subtitles, which only adds to the element of confusion and paranoia for the viewer, much like the character of Paul experiences in the film. Even Spanish film star Francisco Rabal (who passed away shortly after filming) speaks in such heavily-accented English that it adds to the weird, unsettling vibe of not being able to fully understand him either (unless you opt for the English subtitles).

Watching Dagon made me realize that I haven't truly enjoyed a horror film as much as this in quite a long while (though Ginger Snaps and The Convent immediately come to mind); it is perverse, grim and wonderfully evil. In other words, pure Lovecraft.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Lion's Gate gives Gordon's film a look that is far better than many of his earlier DVD efforts have received. With the exception of the brief opening scene and a flashback late in the story, the entire film is set in a dark, rainy environ, and the image transfer conveys the looks fairly well throughout. Image detail, especially for a film as dark as Dagon, is very good, especially for what is essentially a low-budget horror film. This is a murky, wet, shadowy horror film, and blues, blacks and browns prevail, and are reproduced well; some of the black levels are a little off, which turn some of the sequences (as when Paul is being attacked in the tannery) somewhat muddy. There is very little in the way of nicks or blemishes on final transfer, with a few small flaws evident if you are particularly picky. Compression issues are evident, but they are less distracting than one might have expected on a smaller-budgeted film such as Dagon.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: With a moderately aggressive 5.1 Dolby Digital mix on this disc, Dagon provides some wonderfully creepy rear-channel ambient sound cues. The downside is that the presence of these cues isn't consistent enough throughout, and when they are missing it is quite noticeable. The joy of a film like this is all of the creaks, drips and growls that are enhanced by the surrounds, and they really draw the viewer in. Dialogue, admittedly not a driving force in a film like this, is reproduced cleanly, though I defy anyone to be able to decipher all of Francisco Rabal's heavily-accented English without benefit of the subtitles.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Stuart Gordon, Dennis Paoli, Ezra Godden
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Production Art
Extras Review: There are two full-length, scene-specific commentaries on Dagon, and both feature director Stuart Gordon in two distinctly different modes. The first one (and the better of the two) teams up Gordon with screenwriter Dennis Paoli, and the focus of this track centers more on the film's origins, with lots of background on Lovecraft, and less about the on-screen happenings. Their comments provide a fairly comprehensive look on the writing, structure and development of Dagon, while the second track pairs up Gordon with actor Ezra Godden, who portrays Paul in the film. The Gordon/Godden commentary is decidedly more scene-specific, with most of the discussion hinged on the rigors of shooting a particular scene, or similar production anecdotes related to what's happening onscreen. On the surface, two commentaries might seem like overkill on a low-budget horror film, but the tone and content level is unique enough between the two to make them both worth a listen, especially if you're a Gordon fan.

Also included is a theatrical trailer, a storyboard section, centered on three scenes (Paul's Dream, S.O.S., and Car Escape), and a good-sized set of production artwork and sketches (45 images).

The disc is split into 24 chapters and includes subtitles in English and Spanish.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Stuart Gordon is back with a bang with Dagon, which is simply one of the finest horror films EVER. It is a relentless, dark and creepy good time, and includes what is likely the definitive face-skinning scene of all time. Why a film like this never had a theatrical release in the U.S. is beyond me, but thankfully Lion's Gate has provided a nicely packaged DVD that is a requirement to be in every horror fan's collection.

Highly recommended.


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