music friday
marnie (alfred hitchcock, 1964)

film fatales #96: the lure (agnieszka smoczynska, 2015)

This is the eighth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 8 is called Women Directed Horror Week:

When people think horror creators, a lot of the big names tend to be men. Carpenter, Hooper, Romero, Craven, Argento, etc. And sure, these men have created some fantastic works, but it often leaves horror films directed by women underappreciated. In an effort to combat this, let's round out October by observing the greatness that female-driven horror has to offer.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen horror film directed by a woman.

Well, this is an odd one. In the end, it's delightful, in a gory sort of way, but I admit for much of the film, I thought it was just plain loony. After seeing it, I felt positive, and thinking about it made my impression even more so.

I assumed it was a horror film ... that's the challenge, after all. The front of the Blu-ray box gives little hint of what is coming, although I see now that the mysterious, vague character is a mermaid. Reading the back of the box only prepared me for what seemed impossible:

This genre-defying horror-musical mash-up ... follows a pair of carnivorous mermaid sisters drawn ashore to explore life on land in an alternate 1980s Poland. Their tantalizing siren songs and otherworldly auras make them overnight sensations as nightclub singers ... [a] darkly feminist twist on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid".

It might be that last part that got me ... how could Disney fit into this? The answer is that he can't, because Agnieszka Smocznska, in her debut feature, is up to things that would never enter the Disney world.

Horror-musical ... I wasn't encouraged. But in fact, it works. Part of it is that while the mermaid sisters do cast a bit of a spell on people, no one treats them as anything other than beings with a special talent. There is no hatred of the other ... once it is learned they can sing, they get a job in a nightclub, and if their legs sometimes transform into a tail, well, all the more interesting.

In its fantastic way, The Lure tells a simpler tale than the above would suggest. One of the mermaids wants to become human, and both of the sisters are regularly confronted with the restrictions placed on young women who want to decide their lives for themselves. Yes, as mermaids they are accepted, but a mermaid who wants to be human is not.

Often a movie will be described as "Like X, only Y", so a movie like Midnight Special is "Like Close Encounters, only dark". I don't know how to make that work with The Lure. It's like Near Dark, only the story takes off from The Little Mermaid, and there's sex like in The Hunger, and oh yeah, its audaciousness is kinda funny at times. I often complain about movies that require multiple viewings to "get them". In the case of The Lure, I look forward to another viewing, just to take in its wonderful oddness.


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