If you are unfamiliar with this title, The Lure is Agnieszka Smoczynska’s Polish mermaid musical horror film that came at us through a series of film festivals a few years ago. It’s an artistic a unique film that chronicles the hardships of two sisters who work at a local strip club. Sure, it’s weird, but it’s also something you definitely haven’t seen before. If that sounds even remotely interesting just keep scrolling. Just be warned that spoilers abound below the break.
Reviewed by: Mark
Podcast Link: http://a-zhorror.com/podcast/
Two mermaid sisters, Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska), have aspirations of becoming landwalkers and eventually emigrating to the United States from Poland. They use their hypnotic singing voices to convince a group of men to pull them ashore and bring them back to the adult entertainment club that the men work at. There, the sisters become incorporated into the various musical acts that entertain the club’s patrons. Silver develops a crush on the bassist, Mietek (Jakub Gierszal) of the house band and eventually convinces him to go out with her. He struggles with seeing her as a woman because of the relative complexity of having a sexual relationship with a mer-person.
In order to be recognized as a real girl by her would-be boyfriend, Silver undergoes a full lower body transplant to swap her fish tail out for another woman’s lower body. However as a complication of the surgery she loses her voice and has to undergo substantial physical rehabilitation to get used to her new legs. She is kicked out of the band (the band’s name is The Lure), and Mietek begins to lose interest in her. Before long he finds himself in another relationship with a record producer, and they are engaged to be wed.
Here’s the rub though: per well established mer-law if you fall in love with a human and then he marries another person, you’ll turn to seafoam at sunrise. Golden tries to convince her sister to eat the bassist’s heart before sunrise on the night of his wedding, but Silver is unable to do it as she still has feelings for him. As Silver dances with her loved one, the sun rises and she turns to seafoam. Enraged, Golden attacks Mietek tearing his throat open and dives into the ocean. Roll credits.
What the Movie Does Right
As you would hopefully expect from a musical, the music is quite good and quite varied. There are softer acoustic style songs, there are punk rock ballads, there’s even a broadway style number. There’s basically something for everyone here. Beyond that the sound design in general is impressive. When the two sisters are alone they communicate with a series of cat hisses and whale sounds that serve to very effectively remind the viewer that this tandem are still from another world regardless of what they look like.
The visual effects are also worth noting. Some very superficial research yielded the factoid that the tails were 6 foot long physical props that weighed 50 pounds. Combine that type of effort with some digital after effects and the tails become the star of the show in this movie. They look great. And that’s to say nothing of the sundry sets and props that are scattered throughout the rest of the movie. If nothing else, this movie looks and sounds great.
What the Movie Does Wrong
It’s possible that this movie is too weird. It’s one thing to be unique, it’s another to be the level of weird that this movie decides to be. Here at AZH we will always praise movie makers for committing to decisions and making idiosyncratic films, but as these decisions start to pile up you can’t help but think that they’re limiting their audience a bit.
Branching off of the weirdness of the movie, there are quite a few issues with the story. The patrons of the club seem strangely enthusiastic about the mer-nature of the performers without any thought given to our entire scientific taxonomy system being a lie. There are doctors who are just ready and willing to do a lower body swap between Silver and an unwitting and still alive human woman without as much as a second thought. There are more that are probably too specific to describe in text, but the point here is that the plot is more opaque than it needs to be for what is essentially an adaptation of a Hans Christian Anderson story.
Story: 2.5 - At a high level it’s basically just The Little Mermaid, but with two sisters instead of just Ariel. On a more intimate level the story is too bonkers to be given much praise.
World-Building / Immersion: 4.5 - The world is generally well built and well realized. They us a mobile camera and some impressive editing to make the night club feel like a cohesive and livable space. The issues here are once again with the overall weirdness level. It’s not long between points where you are taken out of the watching experience in order to pause and just as “what just happened?”
Scare-Factor: 2 - There’s some gory and creepy imagery here, and the sexualized monsters at the center of the plot could probably get in people’s heads. Outside of that there isn’t much here to keep you up at night.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 7 - This is where this movie shines. Sonically, everything is very good. Visual effects are basically the same story. There are some hinky blood spurts at times, but really that’s the only complaint I can make.
Overall: 5.5 - I could see myself going slightly higher in this category, but insofar as this is basically how likely we are to recommend it to others I am high hesitant to call this better than average. Some people will really like this thing, but those people are probably few and far between.