One of the best H.P. Lovecraft-inspired films, Dagon focuses on one of Lovecraft's strongest stories, 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth' - which details the story of a fishing village which has come under the spiritual thrall of an evil, oceanic deity named 'Dagon'. Brought to the screen by director Stuart Gordon (who also directed Dreams in the Witch House and Re-Animator) it's a mix of horror that borders on camp, great set design, and a little bit of T&A exploitation for good measure. It is clearly not a big-budget picture, but Gordon gets the atmosphere right.
Our hero is the string-bean-armed and uber-nerdy Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden), a dot-com millionare who, while on a yacht with his very sexy fiance and another couple, are caught in a freak storm that crashes their boat against a rock. The other woman on the boat has her leg pinned in the wreckage. Paul and his fiance Barbara leave the other couple to find help. Fortunately they've run aground within sight of a coastal fishing village. Marsh fires an emergency flair and waits for the locals to come to their rescue, but the town remains strangely quiet.
With the injured woman losing blood, Barbara and Paul paddle the dinghy to the dock and try to find help. They meet what appears to be a priest and an albino fisherman. The locals all seem to have various strange deformities, which may be signs of severe inbreeding. Barbara remains on shore, while Paul and a local head back to the boat to help the other couple. When they get back, the couple has vanished. When Paul returns to shore he cannot find Barbara. The local priest tells him that she left the town to find the police, and that she left him instructions to wait for her at the hotel. Before long Paul realizes that the locals aren't friendly at all, and Paul spirals into a nightmarish puzzle.
Why are the inhabitants of the town so vicious, and why is the town slowly disintegrating? And finally, what's happened to Barbara and the others? Gordon gets the town just right - it's spooky and decrepit, slowly crumbling back into the sea. There's a grimy grey miasma over the scenes that makes it all feel as though the town was thrown up onto land by the sea itself. The locals are draped in clothing that covers up their deformities and they chase Paul through the streets.
The weakest part of the story is that the locals behave as zombies might, and their deformities make them move so slowly that Paul should be able to walk on his hands and escape the town. Of course, Paul crashes from horror to horror instead of just leaving. The boat run ashore worked as a plot device -- no one would ever enter this town unless they were in dire need, so that made sense. Paul being unable to escape the town while pursued by people who seem severely handicapped, that's hard to believe. Dagon has some very scary, gory moments, good creature effects, and some nudity, and it all works.
The acting wasn't half bad either. I found the nerdy Paul irritating at first, but his reactions seemed to be what you would expect from a normal person in his situation. By the film's end he's changed from a bit of a wimp, to a bit of a badass. Overall I'd give Dagon 7 stars - not fantastic, but worthy of Lovecraft's original story.