During these past few weeks, I’ve had the joy of re-visiting two Lovecraftian tales, DAGON and BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, which were released on limited edition Blu-rays from Vestron Video last month. As it had been years since I’ve seen either one, it was as though I was watching both for the first time once again, and I was excited to see how they were remastered and restored for their special release. Before going further into my review, the following is a brief synopsis of each film for those who may not be familiar with these Lovecraftian classics.
DAGON is directed by one of horror’s masters, Stuart Gordon (DOLLS, RE-ANIMATOR), known for his Lovecraft adaptations. The 2001 film stars Ezra Godden (TV’s BAND OF BROTHERS and MASTERS OF HORROR), Brendan Price (TV’s DOCTOR WHO and TARGET), Javier Sandoval (BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, MAD LOVE), Raquel Merono (AIRBAG, BENEATH STILL WATERS) and Macarena Gomez (SHREW’S NEST, NIEVES). Based on the short story of the same name, DAGON centers around a couple stranded on the Spanish coast in what seems to be a desolate fishing village. However, they soon learn that there’s more to the inhabitants than meets the eyes as they begin to evolve into half human/half fish-like creatures in search of a sacrifice for their monstrous god of the sea.
BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, the third entry in the RE-ANIMATOR series is directed by yet another master of horror, Brian Yuzna (THE DENTIST, FAUST, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III). Released in 2003, the film stars Jeffrey Combs (RE-ANIMATOR franchise, THE FRIGHTENERS, FROM BEYOND) reprising his role as Herbert West. Joining him are Jason Barry (TV’s LOVE/HATE and SONS OF ANARCHY, TITANIC), Elsa Pataky (FAST & FURIOUS 6, FAST FIVE, SNAKES ON A PLANE) and Javier Sandoval (DAGON, MAD LOVE). The film picks up 13 years after the events that unfolded in BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, and starts off with West incarcerated at a penitentiary. A new doctor arrives to take over as the prison MD, and requests the assistance of West, in hopes of taking care of some unfinished business from the past.
Having owned both films on DVD, I was interested to see how they would compare to Vestron Video’s Blu-ray release. Truthfully, there wasn’t a huge difference between the DVD and Blu-ray – the only appreciable difference was a slight clarity on the Blu-ray that the DVD didn’t possess and the water looked much better on the Blu-ray. Other than that, there wasn’t a huge discrepancy between the two. As for BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, I felt as though there was even less of a change in the quality of the picture. Aside from the DVD having a much grainier look to it, one would be hard pressed to even notice the differences. I wouldn’t say this is something to deter you from getting both copies, as they are packaged and updated beautifully, it’s just a shame that the picture quality wasn’t a tad bit better. Honestly, the biggest change in both DAGON and BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR was the title screen, which changed from cheesy graphics on the DVD to a much more clear and concise menu on the Blu-ray.
One of the aspects that I looked forward to checking out on both releases were the Special Features. Highlighted prominently in both is Lovecraftian historian S.T. Joshi who dives deep into Lovecraft’s appreciation for the ocean and talks about how DAGON was one of Lovecraft’s earliest works and was the first story to be published in Weird Tales (“Fish Stories – An Interview with S.T. Joshi”). He then goes on to discuss the similarities between DAGON and SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH, another classic Lovecraft tale. In “Six Shots By Midnight – An Interview with S.T. Joshi”, he discusses RE-ANIMATOR, explaining that Lovecraft didn’t enjoy writing it because he was on commission and felt as though his writing should happen organically. Joshi also describes how Lovecraft was amused by the idea of life after death.
Other Special Features found on DAGON include an interview with producer Brian Yuzna where he discussed how the film came together, shooting in Spain, how the SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH was incorporated into DAGON, and the 20 years it took to make this film. There is also a fantastic interview with director Stuart Gordon, conducted by MASTERS OF HORROR creator, Mick Garris, titled “Gods and Monsters”, where Stuart explains how DAGON was his version of THE LITTLE MERMAID and echoed Yuzna’s sentiments in regards to how hard it was to get this film made.
For the Special Features on BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, I was very intrigued to watch the interview with Jeffrey Combs who discusses what it was like working in Spain and the use of voice over actors for certain scenes due to the thick accents. I learned that the running theme between DAGON and BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR seemed to be how difficult it was to get each film made. As a huge fan of RE-ANIMATOR, and having only seen it on my TV screen, I can only imagine how amazing it must look on the big screen, something that Combs brings up during his interview. He further discusses how frustrating it was that BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR didn’t get the exposure it deserved, nor did it get the opportunity to be showcased on the big screen, instead going straight to the Syfy network.
All in all, both DAGON and BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR are perfect companion films. Though I personally wish that the picture quality had been ramped up, that didn’t deter my overall viewing experience and I would still recommend both wholeheartedly. I also really enjoyed how thorough and informative the special features were for both films as it was truly enlightening to hear more about Lovecraft’s life and the inspiration behind some of his most well-known stories. On top of all this, you can’t go wrong with the incredible practical effects that were used as well as the amazing scores composed by Xavier Capellas (BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR) and Carles Cases (DAGON). Lastly, both films come with a conceptual art gallery feature from artist Richard Raaphorst, with DAGON having a new beautifully illustrated cover. So don’t hesitate on picking up these limited edition Blu-rays from Vestron, they’re worth it.