Director: Stuart Gordon
This is the latest in a series of horror films put out by director Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, and is by far the most faithful to the grim tales they are taken from. While combining the stories of Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, this is an atmospherically creepy film that definitely keeps true to the Lovecraftian nature (ie not exactly your typical Hollywood film). It's also I think Gordon's best film so far, and hope his next (King of the Ants) lives up to its reputation, despite apparently having nothing to do with the Cthulhu mythos. And it's also the best feature-length film based on Lovecraft's works (with a close 2nd for "strict" adaptation going to The Resurrected based on The Statement of Randolph Carter). Kudos to Gordon, this played out better than I expected.
The story follows a young couple recently made rich from there dot-com stock, and taking a little vacation off the coast of Spain. But right from the start, Paul Marsh is feeling a bit uncomfortable, and soon he and Barbara must venture into the local fishing village to find help. What they discover is something much ominous than your average freak community, and Paul is forced to accept and deal with certain horrible realities.
While it does start off with Paul Marsh as being kind of the comic hero (not even remotely as campy as Ash from the Evil Dead series or even Lionel from Dead Alive), the movie takes on a menacing atmosphere pretty quickly. It's pretty impressive considering some stretches with little dialogue. Most of the locations and sets are great, with some fairly decent integration of CG at times, and some passable to decent makeup/prosthetic effects. Think of it as an atypical horror flick that helps if you watch it twice, considering some badly malled dialogue by a couple of Spanish actors (the subtitles work well for this). But surprisingly, between most of the cast and photography, it comes off as a movie that isn't bad enough for b-movie status. I'd love to see what Gordon could have done with this if he had the budget that John Carpenter did for In the Mouth of Madness. We'll just have to wait and see what Guillermo Del Toro does with his adaptation ofAt the Mountains of Madness. (sensing a trend in titles, here? Lovecraft wrote the original in 1931.)
Lovecraftian Geek Note: You gotta dig the main character wearing the Miskatonic University sweatshirt for the majority of the film. Sure it's blatant, but it's used appropriately without being absurd.
Great Scene: Again, I gotta say the locations are perfect. Despite relocating the original story from coastal New England to Spain, the transition is negligible. There's also a great quick flashback as Paul and his girlfriend walk up to the local church. Pure Lovecraft.
DVD Notes: Pretty decent disc distributed by Lions Gate Films, including 2 commentaries (one with Gordon and Screenwriter Dennis Paoli, and the other with Gordon and main lead Ezra Godden, the first being much more informational about the shoot and some background into Dagon and the Cthulhu Mythos). Also included are the trailer, storyboards for 3 scenes, and a great collection of preproduction sketches. May be a bit hard to find, I'd say it's worth the rental at least for a throwback to true gothic horror told in a modern setting.