As horror fans mourn the tragic loss of beloved writer/director Stuart Gordon, many are turning to his brilliant films as a source of comfort.
Having written Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and directed many horror classics like Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Dolls, Gordon demonstrated quite the range. He is perhaps most famous for his adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft, including the two already mentioned.
However, there is one film of his that is often overlooked, that deserves more credit not only among his filmography, but in the pantheon of horror itself. That film is the underrated masterpiece from 2001, Dagon!
Dagon is currently streaming on Tubi (at time of publication)
Village Unlike Any Other
Following a horrible storm, a young couple and their yacht-owning friends wind up in small fishing town on the coast of Spain with a terrible secret.
They soon discover that many years ago, the village turned to worshipping the ancient and powerful deity Dagon, in order to improve their fish production, and way of living.
While Dagon certainly delivered, he demanded sacrifices as well, and slowly turned the residents into human/fish hybrids, capable to living in the sea.
Adapting Lovecraft Just Right
What makes Dagon great, in addition to the gory and awesome practical effects (mostly), is its overall sense of foreboding and mystery. Through the lens of our main character, we the audience unravel and discover the horrors of the Lovecraftian universe.
There are multiple ways to approach adapting Lovecraft’s work. Some attempt a bizarre, almost arthouse method such as the recent Color Out of Space.
Stuart Gordon on the other hand, always kept his stories grounded in reality at the beginning, and thus allowed the cosmic and demonic horror to be all that more terrifying and disturbing as the main character went down the rabbit hole.
The Frightening Unknown
For Dagon, this is demonstrated brilliantly by the incredibly disturbing ritual sacrifice scene at the end.
We don’t see much of Dagon himself (and what we do see is CGI that hasn’t aged well), but the scariest things about this ending is the utmost devotion and fervor of his followers, as well as Barbara’s reaction after being submerged for just a few seconds.
Paul manages to pull her up out of the water, and we upon her face indescribable horrors as she simply pleads with him to kill her out of mercy. It’s all the more frightening because we have no idea just how horrific the rest of her existence will be, bearing a child to Dagon and all.
It’s a beautifully dark mystery/thriller, with a great old movie feel to it. Were it not for the laptop at the beginning and the limited use of CGI, one could easily believe the movie was made during the 70’s or 80’s, thus giving it a timeless feel and making it still hold up today.
Obviously, these are skills that Gordon also utilized in his other Lovecraft adaptations (as well as all his other horror films), but Dagon is one that always seems overlooked.
It has the fewest number of Rotten Tomato reviews, compared to Gordon’s other horror filmography, and often gets overshadowed by Re-Animator, which is of course a brilliant horror movie, but it’s also so popular that calling a “cult” movie doesn’t really apply anymore.
The Loss of a Legend
Stuart Gordon was so much more than just a horror filmmaker who adapted H.P. Lovecraft. His work in theater and TV (particularly Masters of Horror and Fear Itself) is legendary as well.
We wish nothing but comfort and our deepest condolences to his family. And we the fans can honor and remember him by checking out Dagon, while also re-watching Re-Animator for the 10th time!