“The Lure” – Mermaid movies are almost as rare as reported sightings of the finned-ladies of the sea. Arguably, the most famous mermaid film within the last fifty years is the comedy/romance “Splash” (1984), but Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (1989) could be a close second. Now, I did see “Mermaids” in the theatre back in 1990, but sadly or perhaps fortunately, I do not recall much about it, other than it was a vehicle for Winona Ryder and Cher. In 2017, a new mermaid film arrives in American theatres, and it will not share a broad appeal like “Splash” and “The Little Mermaid” do, but “The Lure” is a catch. A kooky, wild and daring catch!
Director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s new film – set in present-day Warsaw – wears plenty of hats: comedy, horror, musical, and love story lids. At first blush, these genres seemingly describe “The Little Shop of Horrors” (1960, 1986). In one sense, that holds true, because both films introduce a harmless-looking, unknown outsider(s) to a human environment, but “The Lure” audaciously delves into sexual and kinky territory with striking, avant-garde visuals and storytelling, sometimes reminiscent of director Alejandro Jodorowsky or David Lynch. In other words, do not pack the kids in the minivan and ship them off to the theatre for this mermaid film, but for adults who appreciate a unique experience, “The Lure” is your picture.
The film opens with two members of a popular club band – Perkusista (Andrzej Konopka) and Mietek (Jakub Gierszal) – who unexpectedly discover a pair of girls swimming in a river. With only their heads above water, Golden (Michalina Olszanska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek) sing to them, like enchanted sirens towards their unsuspecting prey. Youthful and beautiful, Golden and Silver hypnotize Perkusista and Mietek, while insisting – through song – not to worry. They “won’t eat” them. Apparently, Perkusista and Mietek’s radar for danger is set incredibly low, because they and the band’s female lead singer, Wokalistka (Kinga Preis), bring the young women into the club, Adria, for a tryout.
Right away, Golden and Silver (who actually don’t have blonde and silver hair, but black and red, respectively) embrace their new performer roles as backup singers and dancers. Completely adorable, they sport cute outfits and look like flight attendants from the 1960s, as they reap massive applause and smiles from the crowd. Sure, Golden and Silver gel with the band, but they also show off their mermaid selves – tail and all – onstage, when they purposely get wet. Just add water!
Refreshingly, no evil scientists appear to cart the girls away, and Adria’s patrons accept them, no questions asked. Smoczynska cultivates a positive environment (at least initially), while the music escorts the girls on their land-established travels, including a wonderful, choreographed number in a local shopping mall. Anchored by an inviting techno – and sometimes retro – soundtrack, Smoczynska pulls us into this dystopian, fantastical weirdness where these two outsiders find their way in their new world, which of course, does not always bounce in rainbows and lollipops.
The girls stroll through pools of sexuality and love, but their travels of desire sometimes spawn sinister consequences. Frolicking can turn bloody at a drop of tail, and although the horror never really creates massive scares, the picture delves into some extreme gore that grabs your attention. Wonderfully concocted in an unconventional blend of sights and sounds, “The Lure” lures us into an entertaining, 92-minute trance. Indeed, mermaid movies might be rare, but any film that can hypnotize an audience for an hour and a half truly is uncommon in the world of cinema.
Image credits: Platige Films