Saturday, October 29, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Dagon (2001)

H. P. Lovecraft stories have had quite a few problems over the years. They are known for having racial overtones, strange gods, emotionless writing, and are carefully crafted cosmic horror stories. There are good things and bad things to every single one of H. P. Lovecraft's stories or novellas and the pros and cons come out the best in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". You may be asking why I'm talking about that story and not "Dagon". I am because this film is actually based upon "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" instead of "Dagon".

"The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is one of H. P. Lovecraft's best known and most terrifying novels, mixing the unknown with genuine fear and adrenaline pumping horror. It involves the fleeing sort of horror, running from destiny, from death, and from an awful town full of strange folk. The racially charged overtones can be seen everywhere in it, as well as the ideas of strange religions and folk unlike ourselves.

I personally like Lovecraft and the types of stories he wrote. They come off as genuine even if the writing is not perfect or crazy emotional like most horror is today. He wrote the strange as if they were normal. Insanity was simply a side-effect of seeing something incomprehensible and suicide an easy out for the insane. The gods were deadly, evil things, and there was a rhythm to the stories and the plots. The characters were cookie-cut out of the same mold, but the situations were wholly new and beautifully done.

That being said, Dagon is... in a word... a mess. I'm not certain it knows what it wants to be or even should be. It'snot a horror movie, not really, although it has enough gore to suffice on that mark. But the out of place comedy does not work for horror or... well... really anything. I have found again and again that Lovecraftian stories, except by John Carpenter, tend to be overdone or cheesy, hardly worth the time or effort. This movie is no different. It feels hammy in all the wrong ways, but seems to want to be taken seriously, which I simply cannot do. The gore tells me that this movie does take itself seriously. The make-up effects are good for this kind of movie, and without the dialogue, characters, or sounds, this movie could have been wonderful, but ham and cheese acting, characters without any obvious motivations, and a plot that seems to convoluted to be fun to watch, this movie is an all around mess.

I can't say that I hate this movie. I just can't say that. I'm fond enough of Lovecraft and the story that I don't hate it, but I won't ever watch it again. I can't recommend it because it really is just that bad. Some scenes are better than others, but none are really all that good. None of the actors, except possibly the Spanish actors, are really good enough to pull this one off, and it comes as a disappointment. It could have been better, but ended up very hard to watch, with set-pieces instead of actual plot, and no characters to relate to.

Avoid this one. the stories are better and much more worth your time. Hell, even the video game Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is better and should be played over watching this.

This brings me to my last point: Why are Lovecraft films so unfilmable? I don't get it. They should be easy to make, but no... they are all universally terrible. It saddens me. I guess I'll stick with John Carpenter for my Lovecraftian fix. Into the Mouth of Madness and The Thing are genuinely amazing movies. Watch those instead of this ambitious failure.

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