My Favourite Lovecraftian Movie.
A regular feature (we hope) by guest fans of H P Lovecraft. Some of these guests will be authors, editors, reviewers, publishers or just plain fans. All will be welcome to promote any projects that they are involved with, Lovecraftian or not.
This week I am delighted to post an essay from John Linwood Grant, author, editor, and joint property of
THE LAST TENTACLE ON THE LEFT
Director: Stuart Gordon
Writers: H.P. Lovecraft (short stories "Dagon" and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"), Dennis Paoli (screenplay)
Stars: Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Meroño, Macarena Gómez
|The best of the movie posters.|
We should start by saying that despite the writing credits, this film is neither Dagon nor The Shadow over Innsmouth. Instead, it blends the central revelation of the story Dagon with the folk-horror of Innsmouth to create its own little homage. So be warned.
Having got that out of the way, what do we have? Basically, an enjoyable enough 'young couple end up in the wrong place' story, with a yacht striking a reef and the surviving couple forced to seek help in a monstrosity-haunted Spanish fishing village, Imboca. Innsmouth with tapas, in short.
Reviewing Dagon isn't easy. If you treat it as squirmy fun, it's fine. If you like groaning every time Stuart Gordon messes with Lovecraft's originals, then you might raise many eyebrows. The central couple are also problematic, because the American male lead (Ezra Godden) is an annoying wet who ought to have had a terminal accident early on. His female partner (Raquel Meroño), who is on screen for far less of the film, is resourceful, stunning, and should have been given the lead role.
Her absence is filled by another of Gordon's major divergences, a seductive Innsmouthian priestess (Macarena Gómez) who would certainly not have appeared on old HPL's list. On the basis that even our 'hero' wouldn't fall for a bulgy-eyed, warty and gill-slitted girlie, suffice it to say that the more visible part of her are conveniently fey and beautiful.
|One of the denizens of the deep.|
The same cannot be said for the villagers, and one of the strengths of the film is the portrayal of the half-human inhabitants. These vary from characters such as the priest and the hotel keeper, finely done in pallid, fishy shades, to robed horrors who need carts to get around. Visually, there are many fine aspects to the film – the village and the villagers work well; the whole place reeks of decay and, well, wetness. It does fall prey, though, to the dubious tentacle motif, with far too many boneless tendrils poking out everywhere, rather than the more batrachian original. Did we need frogs and squids? Possibly not.
If you seek gore, it will come. The film has a sideline in bloody sacrifice (cue Dagon) and people's faces being removed (no idea why). But the film is relatively image heavy and gore light otherwise. It's perhaps a film which works in two ways. The atmosphere and imagery are strong in both cases. As a folk-horror film, it's different and worth a look. As a Lovecraft film it's… a bit of a canonical mess, but worth a look. Innsmouth, out of Lair of the White Worm, with Dagon as tonight's guest
John Linwood Grant is a professional writer who lives in Yorkshire with a pack of lurchers and a beard. He may also have a family. He writes dark Edwardian tales, such as his recent novella A Study in Grey, and other weird and speculative fiction,including his Mamma Lucy tales of 1920's hoodoo. He has been published in a wide range of anthologies and magazines, edits anthologies himself, and is co-editor of Occult Detective Quarterly.
Occult Detective Quarterly #2 is due out in May 2017. Their Coats All Red, an anthology of strange and supernatural fiction set at the height of the British Empire, is coming later in the year from 18thWall, to be followed in 2018 by Hell's Empire, an anthology of the Victorians versus the Infernal Hordes, from Ulthar Press. News of all projects can be found on his popular website greydogtales.com, which explores weird fiction and weird art. And lurchers.