Stuart Gordon’s Dagon opens with a pasty yuppie swimming toward a woman of unearthly beauty. She gives him a serene smile, and then unhinges her jaw to reveal a deep abyss ringed with bladed teeth. He wakes, gasping. Paul and Barbara are below deck of the sailboat that should be the setting of their dream vacation, their reward for some ambiguous business deal that’s earned them millions. Barbara is trying to relax the neurotic, childish Paul by going down on him, and Paul sighs, “I don’t find any of this enjoyable.”
Paul is, in two words, the worst. He complains his way through a vacation spent sailing off the coast of Spain. He’d rather check his stocks than get a blowjob from his sexy girlfriend. When a storm hits the boat and Paul and Barbara are forced to go ashore, Paul does not handle the crisis with composure. And, likely worst of all, he’s the kind of guy who attempts Spanish by adding an “o” to words. “Room-o? Please-o?”
But all of that changes once Paul has spent a little time in Imboca, the watery village that will prove to be his destiny. He and Barbara are separated by the gilled, webbed, clammy residents of Imboca, a people who have surrendered their humanity in order to worship Dagon, the god of fertility and fish. Paul spends his first hours in Imboca running clumsily, stumbling, giving himself avoidable injuries. And then he meets Uxía.
Macarena Gómez is cast perfectly as Uxía Cambarro. She has a weird beauty that makes her appear entirely other. Uxía is, of course, the woman from Paul’s dreams. He finds her sitting upright in bed, covers drawn to her waist. Despite himself, Paul is pulled to Uxía, and she clearly desires him. She touches his face and smells her fingers hungrily. He tries to wrench away, to think of Barbara, but Barbara seems to have very little hold over Paul when he is near Uxía. After all, he’s even had dreams where Barbara turns into Uxía. They kiss, and he unties her nightgown and caresses her breast, until his hand travels down and he pulls away, repulsed. Uxía’s groping, needy tentacles are revealed! Uxía begs him to stay with her, but Paul is Paul, so he runs away.
But even as he runs, something is different about Paul after his erotic encounter with Uxía. He is growing a little more capable, a little more heroic. His voice loses its whiny tenor. When he is reunited with Barbara, their friend Vicki and the one human resident of Imboca, Francisco Rabal’s Ezequiel, Paul is suddenly the leader of this group. He comforts, he directs. For the first time, we see Paul as a man.
The Imbocans want Barbara for Dagon. Vicki, who’s already met Dagon, tells her what she’s in for:
It's inside me.
It took me under.
I was covered--
It had all these--
oh God, it--
I was... sick.
I couldn't breathe.
Ezequiel elucidates: “They give to Dagon. He have her. Take her. He fuck her.”
Barbara’s taken away, and Paul, using two blades, a can of gasoline and a Zippo, overpowers dozens of the Imbocans. Suddenly, he’s a badass. He fights his way toward the crowd chanting “Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!” Rejoice that Cthulhu sleeps. But he’s not sleeping anymore – Barbara is naked, chained, and a jealous Uxía is cutting her with a golden blade and letting the blood fall into Dagon’s vast pit. Barbara is lowered into this mouth as Paul burns his way toward her, but he's too late. She’s Dagon’s now. And their child will be immortal.
All that’s left is for Paul to accept his destiny. He is the son of Cambarro, which means he is the son of Dagon. Uxía tells him, “You are my brother. You will be my lover…forever.” Paul can’t accept it yet; he must have one last trial by fire before he becomes himself. He douses himself and flicks the Zippo, and then he’s covered in flames. Uxía rushes toward him, desperate to save him, and she dives with him into Dagon’s underwater kingdom, where he discovers not only that he can breathe, but that his charred skin is peeling away. The last of Paul - the yuppie, the wimp – strips away, and by virtue of Uxía’s love, and her lust, he is who he was always meant to be: Pablo Cambarro. Son of Dagon.
We shall dive down through black abysses...and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory forever.