Putting it bluntly, 2016 was undoubtedly the year of the weird. Between The Witch, The Neon Demon, Swiss Army Man and even the bizarre opening credits of Nocturnal Animals, a new wave of idiosyncratic and provoking releases exploded onto the scene. 2017 wastes no time at well, offering up an 80s murderous mermaid musical with The Lure.
Whether it be the classic Disney film or the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Little Mermaid is a fairly common story to the general populace. But make no mistake, The Lure (Córki dancingu in its original Polish) isn’t all happy-go-lucky Disney song and dance. Just the concept of cannibal mermaids should have sweet and innocent screaming bloody murder.
Sometime in the 1980s, two mermaids, Golden (Michalina Olszanska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek) are taken in by a Polish nightclub after seducing a bass player (Jakub Gierszal) on a beach. The sister sirens assimilate rather quickly into the seedy cabaret scene as one of the stripping and singing acts. We all know sex sells. Under the sea, they’re full-fledged mermaids in every which way possible. Out on land, their gigantic tails transform into slender legs of young women. But all that can change with just a few drops of water.
While a shock at first, the “gimmick” becomes part of their act and the audience assumes nothing more. But deep down, Golden and Silver are instinctively mermaids – here to seduce clueless young males before devouring the poor sods. And like a pair of sisters, there’s bound to be a rivalry. Golden, the more vicious of the two is clearly jealous of Silver’s intimacy with the bass player. Her appetite is never satisfied. However, she warns her sister the consequences if the relationship goes awry. After all, who wants spend the rest of their days as foam?
First-time director Agnieszka Smoczynska already has developed a passion for the craft. She confidently pieces together a puzzle of a coming-of-age narrative with an exploration of female sexuality and aquatic mythology. Olszanska and Mazurek work fine together, channeling the good sister, bad sister dynamic. The Lure literally dives much deeper than what’s expected of it. While the cannibalistic mermaid murders are an easy target for those looking for some modern midnight fare, it’s pleasantly surprising to witness a more rounded narrative.
It’s a fairy tale, a horror and a musical wrapped up into one. Like a pinball machine, you’ll never know which of three director Smoczynska is taking us next on this twisted hyperkinetic hybrid. One minute it’s a bloody feast of horror. While the next, the bubbly Euro music by Barbara Wronska, Zuzanna Wronska and Marcin Macuk will have your foot tapping even if they’re not primed as iconic ballads. It’s seductive. It’s fun. It’s everything you’d come to expect for an off-beat 80s Polish cabaret.
At 92 minutes, The Lure attempts to go full throttle with many of its mash-up ideas just pouring out of its head. It’s incredible to see how many of these actually managed to connect. Simply thinking about murder, mermaid and musical in the same sentence translates into thoughts of bewilderment. But don’t be discouraged when it all manages to pull itself together before the credits roll. Granted, there’s a couple of bumps in this bizarre road. But for a first-time director tackling such oddball material, she’s to be commended greatly.
Like many of the aforementioned films, The Lure isn’t bending over backwards to resonate with everyone. Its quirks and occasional dark humor do however, play very strongly for those looking for a deranged film that’s simply unforgettable.