Dagon (released in Spain as Dagon: La Secta del Mar) is a 2001 Spanish horror film directed by Stuart Gordon and written by Dennis Paoli. Despite the title, it is based on H. P. Lovecraft's novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth rather than his earlier short story "Dagon" (1919). The film takes place in "Imboca", a Spanish adaptation of "Innsmouth".
Paul Marsh has a dream that he discovers a mermaid with razor-sharp teeth while scuba diving into a strange underwater building. Paul awakes on a boat off the shores of Spain, where he is vacationing with his girlfriend, Barbara, and their friends Vicki and Howard. A sudden storm blows their boat against some hidden rocks. Vicki is trapped below deck and Howard stays with her while Paul and Barbara take a lifeboat to the nearby fishing village of Imboca. During their absence, an unseen creature from the deep attacks the two in the boat.
On the shore, Barbara and Paul find no one about and venture into town until they eventually reach the church, where they find a priest. Barbara convinces him to help them, and the priest speaks with two fishermen at the docks, who volunteer to take either Paul or Barbara to the wreck. Despite Paul's misgivings, Barbara stays to try to find a phone in order to call the police and a doctor while Paul goes to help their friends.
Vicki and Howard are mysteriously missing, however, and Paul is taken back to Imboca, where he is sent to the hotel that Barbara was supposed to have gone to. But she is missing as well and Paul is left to wait for her in an old, filthy hotel room, where he dreams of the mermaid again. His fitful rest is disturbed by a large gathering of strange, fish-like people approaching the hotel and is forced to flee. He ends up in a macabre tannery full of human skins, where he discovers Howard's remains. He escapes the tannery by starting a fire and finds momentary safety with an old drunkard named Ezequiel, the last full-blooded human in Imboca.
Ezequiel explains to Paul that, many years ago, the village fell on lean times and turned from Catholicism to the worship of Dagon, converting the church into his temple. This brought marvelous wealth to Imboca in the form of fish and gold, but also horror when Dagon demanded blood sacrifices and human women to breed with. These were, respectively, the fates of Ezequiel's father and mother. Paul begs Ezequiel to help him escape. Ezequiel relents and takes Paul to the Mayor's manor, so he can steal the town's only car. Ezequiel distracts some Imbocans long enough for Paul to slip inside, but he accidentally honks the horn while trying to hot-wire the engine. Forced to flee into the manor, Paul finds a beautiful woman named Uxia, the mermaid from his dreams. She saves him from discovery, but when he finds that she really is half-fish, he flees in horror, despite her pleas for him to stay.
Paul narrowly escapes a horde of villagers in the car, but ends up crashing. He is caught and thrown into a barn, where he is reunited with Vicki, Ezequiel, and Barbara. The three plan to escape, but the attempt is foiled. Having been raped and impregnated by Dagon, the traumatized Vicki kills herself. Paul and Ezequiel are separated from Barbara and end up in a butchery, where they are chained and given a chance to join the worship of Dagon. When they both refuse, Ezequiel is flayed alive before Paul's eyes as they recite the 23rd Psalm together.
Paul is saved by the appearance of Uxia, who informs him that he has no choice but to join them. He offers to stay with her in return for Barbara's release, but she insists that Barbara must stay and bear Dagon's child. When Paul seems to concede, Uxia tells the priest of Dagon to make arrangements for their marriage. After Uxia leaves, Paul escapes, killing the guards and the priest. He starts looking for Barbara, collecting a can of kerosene on the way. When he reaches the church, apparently intending to burn it down, he instead discovers a hidden passage that leads below ground to a ritual chamber. There a congregation of Imbocans watch Uxia prepare Barbara to be offered to Dagon; she is chained by her wrists and lowered nude into a deep pit leading to the sea. While the Imbocan congregation and Uxia call to Dagon, Paul attacks, dousing several villagers in kerosene and setting them on fire. He winches Barbara back out of the pit, but Dagon has already raped her and she pleads with him to kill her. Paul refuses and the monstrous Dagon himself grabs Barbara and tears her bodily from the winch, claiming her as his new consort and leaving her severed hands and wrists still in their chains.
The uninjured Imbocans assault Paul, but are halted by Uxia and a monstrously deformed Imbocan who is revealed to be Uxia's and Paul's father. Uxia explains that Paul's human mother escaped from Imboca years ago, but now that Paul has returned, he will be her lover and they will dwell with Dagon forever. Trapped, Paul pours the last of the kerosene over his own body and sets himself on fire. Uxia grabs him and dives into the water, where Paul sprouts gills. With no choice left, he follows Uxia down into Dagon's undersea lair.
- Ezra Godden as Paul Marsh
- Francisco Rabal as Ezequiel
- Raquel Meroño as Barbara
- Macarena Gómez as Uxía Cambarro
- Brendan Price as Howard
- Birgit Bofarull as Vicki
- Uxía Blanco as Ezequiel's mother
- Ferran Lahoz as Priest
- Joan Minguell as Xavier Cambarro
- Alfredo Villa as Captain Orpheus Cambarro/Captain Obed March
- José Lifante as desk clerk
- Javier Sandoval as Ezequiel's father
- Victor Barreira as young Ezequiel
- Fernando Gil as Catholic priest
- Jorge Luis Pérez as Boy
Dagon was released theatrically in Spain on November 8, 2001; opening in 117 theaters, ranking #20 on the charts on its opening weekend where it grossed $101,273 averaging at $860. The film would later gross $43,773 bringing its total to $145,046, or €212,699 in Spanish currency.
Home media Edit
Dagon was released on DVD by Lionsgate on July 23, 2002 and later that same year by Metrodome on October 7. The film was last released on DVD by Prism on February 2, 2004. On April 8, 2018, it was announced that the film would be released for the first time on Blu-ray, as a part of a collector's series by Vestron Video. This version was later released on July 24th that same year.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Dagon holds an approval rating of 64% based on 11 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 5.9/10.
Marjorie Baumgarten from Austin Chronicle gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, calling it "horror so extreme that it borders on camp", further stating that it was "hampered by some clunky scripting [...] and middling performances." AllMovie gave the film a slightly positive review, writing, "Though it's not perfect, Lovecraft fans will most likely be willing to forgive Dagon's shortcomings in favor of a film that obviously shows great respect and appreciation for its source materials." KJ Doughton of Film Threat rated the film 3 out of 5 stars, writing, "While not a perfect movie, Dagon crams its wild, over-the-top concepts down our throats with so much conviction that we can't help but get swept along for the ride." Scott Tobias from The A.V. Club gave the film a mostly positive review, commending the film's first half, which he felt "came alive" through its suggestive gothic ambiance. and "well-placed jolts of violence". However, Tobias criticized the film's third act, which he felt downplayed the film's "distinctive flavor to ritualized nudity and gore". Ain't It Cool News gave the film a positive review, praising the film's atmosphere, tone, setting, and darker themes when compared to other adaptions of the author's works. HorrorNews.net criticized the film's low-budget special effects, and occasionally "hammy" acting. However, the reviewer concluded by stating, "Dagon comes across with a low budget, but it has a big heart and kind of a big bite to go with it." Nick Hartel from DVD Talk praised the film, calling it director Gordon's all-time best work, and the best Lovecraft adaption. Reviewing the 2007 film Cthulhu, another adaptation of Lovecraft's story, Nick Pinkerton of LA Weekly stated that Dagon remained the better adaption of the story. In their book Lurker in the Lobby: The Guide to the Cinema of H. P. Lovecraft, Andrew Migliore and John Strysik write that "Gordon nicely creates the decayed humanity of Lovecraft's Innsmouth" but also that the film's "relentlessness" is "draining and numbing." They conclude: "Dagon is a dark story well told, but for some Lovecraft lovers, it may be a fish that should have gotten away."