Dagon [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (11th August 2018).
The Film

"Dagon" (2001)

Paul (played by Ezra Godden) and his girlfriend Barbara (played by Raquel Meroño) are coasting in a yacht off the coast of Spain along with business partner Howard (played by Brendan Price and his wife Vicki (played by Birgit Bofarull). As a freak storm suddenly approaches, the yacht steers off course hitting a rock and damaging the ship. Vicki's leg gets stuck so Howard decides to stay behind while Paul and Barbara take a raft to a nearby island, which seems strangely deserted. They encounter a priest (played by Ferran Lahoz) who says he is willing to help by having the fisherman go to the yacht to rescue Howard and Vicki and also offering shelter. But things are not what they seem on the island, as they encounter zombie like people with pale faces and gills, bizarre rituals, and little chance of escape...

Director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna's professional relationship started with the 1985 classic "Re-Animator", adapted from the "H.P. Lovecraft story and would continue with a string of films over the years. Gordon's later films would also see more Lovecraft adaptations with "From Beyond" in 1986 and "Castle Freak" in 1995. In 2001 Gordon once again teamed with Yuzna and his production team Fantastic Factory in Spain for the long-in-the-works "Dagon", which would be their latest collaboration and next Lovecraft adaptation. Although "Dagon" carries the subtitle of H.P. Lovecraft's Dagon", the story is inspired by two stories by the horror author - the 1917 short story "Dagon" and the 1936 novella "The Shadow over Innsmouth", with most of the story coming from the latter, similar to Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon" taking writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa's stories "Rashomon" and "In a Grove" and combining them, while retaining mostly the plot of the latter. The film version of "Dagon" would have elements of "The Wicker Man" with an island of bizarre rituals, classic zombie films like "Night of the Living Dead", and Hammer Films classics with the imagery and tone, while upping the gore, violence, and effects to the modern era. But even with multiple inspirations, "Dagon" stays relatively original in its story and execution, with quite a few surprises along the way.

The idea of a sea god influencing people not only mentally but physically by having them start to form physical attributes of sea creatures is an interesting concept and the film does play the creepiness factor well, plus introducing a gory element of skinning people so the fishlike humans can wear human skin. The film has some pretty great practical effects with the gory skinning scenes and the make-up and prosthetic effects of the fishlike people, but one area the film falters is the use of digital effects. Shots of the boat lost at sea, the digital transformations, and other shots look extremely dated - like 32 bit console cutscenes rather than a feature film. But thankfully those are far and few. The good and the bad also come in the performances by the actors. Ezra Godden as the lead is almost a cross between Herbert West and Dan Cain from "Re-Animator", and while that may have some charm, his character is not the most apt or likable. He is an IT tech guy and has no real-world survival skills. Constantly afraid and doubting everything around him, he basically could have been anybody and that makes him a bit on the boring side. The town drunk Eziquiel played by Francisco Rabal in his final film role is an excellent one, only hampered by his hard to understand accent while having to do some lengthy explanations. Macarena Gómez who plays the lusty and mysterious Uxia goes all out in her first feature, reminiscent of Barbara Steele physically while invoking the character she played in "Black Sunday". Raquel Meroño as Barabara has some excellent scenes as a strong female character but unfortunately she disappears for quite a portion of the film leaving a big gap in the story that may have proved interesting to incorporate. And that said, storywise the film follows the lead of Paul too much rather than giving more to the other characters on board the boat, leading to many instances of "Hey, whatever happened to what's-his-face and what's-her-face?" - although the "face" part may be answered in later portions of the film...

"Dagon" was first screened at the Sitges Film Festival in Spain on October 12th 2001 followed by a theatrical release in Spain from October 30th 2001. The film was not a major theatrical success, opening at #20 on its opening weekend and grossing only €212,000 in its theatrical run. While the film was screened at festivals abroad, most territories released it direct to video, including the US, the UK, Japan, and much of Europe. The film never truly received a cult status or word of mouth rise in interest as Gordon and Yuzna's other films have and yes it is true that there are some faults with the film. But overall it is creepy, bizarre and violent and deserving of another look.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Shot on 35mm, the film is presented in a very clean transfer with no instances of damage or debris while also retaining a slight amount of film grain. It does look to have some digital manipulation in the mastering process, but nothing extravagant to hinder the viewing. Colors are well balanced with the golden hues of the climax and the blues of the outdoor storm scenes. The transfer seems a bit on the dated side but it actually is much better than that of the Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray of "Beyond Re-Animator" which was another Fantastic Factory film that was produced a few years later.

The film is uncut and runs 97:51.

Audio

English/Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English/Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

That is not a typo. There are two English 5.1 tracks available on the disc. This is not mentioned on the case or the menus and the second track is only accessible with the audio key on the remote. They are technically identical in content but the default first audio track is mixed at a much lower volume, almost as if it was a 2.0 surround track encoded in 5.1. Music and effects feel compressed and shallow, and overall does not give a satisfying presentation. The second 5.1 track on the other hand features great work in the surround channels, with the heavy rain coming from all channels, other effects coming in clearly and dialogue well mixed. Most people watching for the first time will mistakenly not use the audio key and listen to the lesser audio track but it is definitely recommended to watch the film with the second audio track instead. It is better balanced and better everything.

There are optional English subtitles for the main feature. Originally the film played without subtitles for the Spanish portions in English speaking territories. The English subtitle track here captions the English portions of the film, but interestingly when characters speak Spanish, the subtitle track actually captions them in Español. The English track is not 100% complete, missing a few words here and there, but overall is fine to follow along with.

Extras

"B-Roll/Making Of" featurette (4:16)
Various behind the scenes footage is presented. There are no interviews or direct conversations from the filmmakers or the performers.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interviews
- Macarena Gómez (12:50)
- Stuart Gordon (17:26)
- Raquel Meroño (14:17)
- Ezra Godden (20:15)

These interviews were done after the film was completed and first screened, possibly at Sitges but there is no information. The actors and the director recall the shooting of the production, Gordon mentions about the inspiration of the cell phone death scene, the actresses talk about the nude scenes, and Godden mentions how he doesn't want to be typecast as a horror actor in the future. Each interview is not selectable from a menu, but the are played back to back once "Interviews" is chosen from the main menu.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interviews from the Set
- Stuart Gordon (3:31)
- Ezra Godden (2:35)

These two short EPK soundbites of the director and actor are from during the making of the film, as evidenced by Godden looking very dirtied up from a scene he was shooting. Again, each interview is not selectable from a menu, but the are played back to back once "Interviews from the Set" is chosen from the main menu.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Trailer (2:58)
A trailer packed with spoilerish scenes.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in windowboxed 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Teaser (2:04)
A more atmospheric trailer is presented here.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

TV Spots (1:32)
Two TV spots are offered, the first being a 60 second spot and the second a 30 second one. Mostly dialogue free and including blood, nudity, and swearing, it’s not clear what TV channel these aired on.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


On Blu-ray the film was first released by 3L in Germany in 2012. Unfortunately it was a cut version of the film, missing the graphic skinning scene, but it offered some additional vintage interviews and stills over the Australian release. Just after the Australian Umbrella release, the film was released on Blu-ray in America by Lionsgate. For this edition, it included two commentaries from the original DVD release, over an hour of new featurettes plus archival interviews and stills. For extras the US release is the clear winner but it has been criticized for its transfer.

Packaging

The disc is packaged in a keep case housed with a slip case. The third in the "Beyond Genres" line, the case is labeled "Volume 3". The Australian rating logo on the cover is actually a sticker on the plastic and can be removed. Inside the case is not a reversible cover but a text reprint of the original "Dagon" short story by H.P. Lovecraft.
The case states "Region B" but this is a region ALL disc.

Overall

"Dagon" was overlooked back in 2001 and all these years later never got its due as a creepy and nasty horror from Gordon and Yuzna. Sure it has it's issues in narrative and some performances, but the gore factor and bizarre plot will satisfy many horror fans looking for something different. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray features great video and audio (on the alternate audio track at least) though it could have used some new extras rather than recycling a few vintage interviews. Still comes as recommended.

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: A- Extras: C Overall: B

 


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