Stuart Gordon’s watery genre piece “Dagon,” the third project in 2001 under Filmax’s prolific Fantastic Factory banner, beats the first two — Brian Yuzna’s “Faust” and Jack Sholder’s “Arachnid” — fins down. A grisly coastal chiller combining horror and humor in the style of Gordon’s 1985 debut cult schlocker “Re-Animator,” this Lovecraft-inspired gorefest about fish zombies in a remote Spanish village turns a blind eye to credibility. However, its B-movie revels, skillful textbook helming, strong atmospherics and the wry smiles dotted throughout make for an enjoyably mindless ride. Pic has presold well as part of the FF package, but B.O. in Spain has been quiet in the face of higher-profile offshore competition.
Yuppies Paul (newcomer Ezra Godden) and Spanish g.f. Barbara (Spanish soap looker Raquel Merono) are enjoying a yachting vacation with friends Howard (Brendan Price, from Brit soap “Emmerdale Farm”) and Vicky (Birgit Bofarull). A storm whips up and theirbroken boat is stranded. Paul and Barbara go for help to the ghostly, rain-swept coastal town they have seen from the boat but, when Paul returns, Howard and Vicky have disappeared. Barbara, meanwhile, has been captured by an unusually white-faced priest.
After a lengthy cat-and-mouse chase with the “fish people” who live in the town, Paul finally meets the only living inhabitant, aging alcoholic Ezequiel (recently-deceased Francisco Rabal, to whom pic is dedicated). Ezequiel reveals that, when he was a child, the town sold its collective soul to a bizarre underwater Satanic cult ruled by the evil Dagon. As a result, the population is slowly turning into fish with many of the townspeople losing the use of their legs. On the run from these fish people, Paul comes across sexy fish woman Uxia (Macarena Gomez), and discovers their destinies are linked.
Perfs are generally exuberant, but it’s Rabal, despite being practically incomprehensible in English, whose bulky immobility steals the show and makes pic’s middle stretch the most watchable. Special effects are spot-on, and rain and lightning almost permanent, giving the sense that the whole thing is taking place underwater. Lensing by Carlos Suarez is atmospheric, and pacing skillfully handled.