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Dagon – Collector’s Series (Blu-ray Review)

Vestron Video has made July 2018 sort of their HP Lovecraft month with the previously reviewed Beyond ReAnimator and Dagon. While Dagon gave us some Herbert West and known Lovecraft actor Jeffrey Combs, we get his usual partner in crime, director Stuart Gordon for this aquatic horror film. There had been rumor for a few months that Vestron would be adding this one to the Collector’s Series and fans were pretty excited when it turned out to be true. They’ve come through with a slew of brand new interviews and bonus materials for everyone to dig into as well. You can grab this one, along with Beyond ReAnimator, to keep your Vestron Video Collector’s Series Blu-rays up to date by using the Amazon link below. This one hits shelves (Probably more like virtual shelves) on July 24th!

Film 

Paul Marsh is yachting on the Spanish coast with three companions when a freak storm causes their boat to founder on the rocks. Paul goes to a nearby village to get assistance, as two of his friends have been trapped in the boat’s wreckage. He notices that the locals seem odd, and their behavior grows increasingly strange. When Paul begins seeing a mermaid who has appeared in his nightmares, he realizes that the fearful world of his dreams is now a reality.

HP Lovecraft is always a weird duck to translate to film. However, Stuart Gordon seems to be the guy you call if you want success in the Lovecraftian realm. His films, while I don’t know how faithful an adaptation have always been both entertaining and quite weird. Dagon is no exception. But with Dagon, Gordon really brings a sense of intrigue and mystery. And in all honestly, said mystery isn’t so much into seeing or finding out exactly what monster this is, its more about watching the narrative unfold.

Dagon is cleverly a chase film. While its a little bit slow moving and never feels like one constant chase, it actually really is. As soon as we get to the town we are constantly following our characters from one room to another, to another building to another crazy situation. But, its always moving through the same night.  I never feel like the movie is sitting still and that’s to its benefit. If you’ve never seen the film, you’re probably reading hogwash, but if you have, you’re likely following me.  Part of the chase is watching this crazy monster cult summon the underwater Dagon.

The film has its fun share of gross and weird discomfort. There are some fun, practical make-up work happening to go along with some goopy gory kills and disgusting things to happen to the actors. They do their best to try and mask their shortcomings, but they go for it with early 2001 looking CGI effects. Its pretty noticeable, but at least its not laughable and feels above the level of a SyFy original movie. They also only use it when they have to and don’t really flaunt it. Its just necessary to the story being told.

Dagon would be a really cool film to see made again with an actual budget and maybe Stuart Gordon advising a younger visionary to make the film. There is something there with this film that I think had the production been able to have some better technology or resources at hand, it would’ve turned out better. Don’t get me wrong, the physical effects rock, some guy gets his face peeled off and its awesome. Dagon as is, works enough for me, though I think something is one the table for update to overtake it if it were to happen (cue the loyalists’ hate on me in the comments).

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Dagon debuts on Blu-ray with an interesting looking image. At times the thing looks crisp, polished and clear, but then at the same time it almost feels like a DVD upconvert. Some smooth areas make me wonder if DNR was applied to it. There are great details in this film and then at the same time it feels shied away from them. Overall, it makes for an interesting experience that goes from looking impressive to “eh” within seconds of itself.

Depth: There are some very cool shots out on the water that feel multidimensional and spacious. Movements can wind up choppy at times and isn’t a very confident film with motion.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and pretty consuming with details that do find themselves hidden a bit much from time to time. There is some minimal crush at times unfortunately.

Color Reproduction: While this one can be rather dingy and dark, there are things that blast off your screen. Early on in the daylight it looks vivid as a display inside a department store. Later on, you’ll get some blasted orange from a t-shirt and glowing yellow/green looking color from a raincoat. Blood gives rich sense of red and flashback features a nice blue on a blouse.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features very from impressive to too smoothed out and a little disappointing.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Dagon has a pretty nice and at times surprsing 5.1 mix on this Blu-ray. There is a LOT of rain here and its good and consistently in the mix and perfectly sculpted for every environment. Effects are probably the biggest highlight of the mix. Vocals are a little low and the score can sometimes get a bit overbearing. I’ll mention it here, oddly, but the menu volume is set much louder than the actual film and bonus features and the low end music on it peaks far too much. Overall, for the film its  good experience with some solid highlights.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Some good booms on your subwoofer come from waves crashing, engines and big attacks and scoring hits in the film.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surprisingly this one has a pretty intricate mix. There were sounds coming from behind that felt like they were in the damn room. Travel and placement is pretty fun here with the speaker.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and handled well in this mix with the volume having a lot of rain going on constantly.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Stuart Gordon and Screenwriter Denis Paoli
  • WIth Director Stuart Gordon and Star Ezra Godden

Gods & Monsters (HD, 22:26) – A discussion with director Stuart Gordon, interviewed by filmmaker Mick Garris. Similar to The Thing conversation, they discuss the fears of the deep sea and how Dagon was supposed to be the follow up to Dagon and nobody wanted to touch it. Its a friendly conversation and if you’ve seen Garris with someone, he pulls some the deepest and fun thing without ever seeming rash and always cheery and making the opposite chair comfortable.

Shadows Over Imboca (HD, 19:53) – An interview with producer Brian Yuzna. Yuzna talks how he wanted to create his own Universal Classic Monsters or Hammer Horror series of films with his kinds of monsters and such. He goes into the earliest days of the Dagon film through to getting the greenlight to make a Spanish film and his recollections of the production.

Fish Stories (HD, 18:00) – An interview with S.T. Joshi, author of I Am Providence: The Life and Times of HP Lovecraft. Like on Beyond ReAnimator, he goes over some Lovecraft history, how stuff in his life relates to Dagon and also reads and analyzes passages from his works.

Archival Interviews with Stuart Gordon, Ezra Godden and Other Cast & Crew (SD, 21:32) – At first it looks like its just some junket interviews, but it appears these were taken during filming and also possibly for some sort of convention. Or maybe they were just for some DVD as the production house logo (Fantastic Factory) sits behind a few people.

Vintage EPK Featurette (SD, 27:17) –

Conceptual Art Gallery From Artist Richard Raaphorst (HD, 9:01)

Storyboard Gallery (HD, 9:13)

Still Gallery (HD, 5:20)

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:19)

Summary 

Dagon is a solid amphibian horror tale that in terms of budget or or ability isn’t able to, but damnit they go big anyway. And that’s to be appreciated. This Blu-ray debut for it comes through with loads of bonus materials, but felt lacking in the video presentation but kept up its end of the bargain in the audio. Despite that, this is the best presentation around and fans best pick it up, because this could really be the best for a very long time for a film of its ilk.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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