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“THE LURE” (Fantasia Film Review)

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“Poland doesn’t make horror movies or musicals, so for my first movie, I did both,” director Agnieszka Smoczynska explained in her video intro to THE LURE at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, preparing the festival audience for one of the most unique and mesmerizing cinematic experiences of their lives. It’s a good year for being a mermaid, with both Stephen Chow’s record-breaking THE MERMAID and THE LURE bringing emotionally charged oceanic mythos to the big screen.

Opening with a beautiful sequence of the mermaids encountering a band celebrating on shore and luring the men into pulling them onto the land, then the fantastic soundtrack screaming out the speakers, bright and colorful, the camera moves throughout the club to where the mermaids are discovering a new world. Upon drying up on land the two sister mermaids, named Golden (Michalina Olszanska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek), have metamorphosized legs in place of their tales. And, with their gorgeous siren voices and youthful good looks, they are perfect for performing in the club with the house band.

Although the world of THE LURE does treat the two sirens as monsters, with quite a few bloody sequences on the screen, they are equally seen as children and have a childlike naivete to their behavior. Here is where THE LURE starts to get a bit more shocking, as Golden and Silver are introduced to a world of sex, liquor, and cigarettes with the humans, working as harmonizing dancers in a club. The club in which the sirens work with their new band provides delightful themed burlesque numbers, costumes peeling off beautiful bodies set to an upbeat soundtrack. Think FLASHDANCE, but with mermaids.

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Things begin to get complicated and a wedge is driven between the sisters. Golden is growing bloodthirsty and angry, while Silver has fallen for the young, attractive blonde guitarist (Jakub Gierszal) of the band. Tensions are growing with the matriarchal singer and the drummer, and what was once a harmonious family seems to be coming apart. It’s actually unclear whether they are a real family or just a band, but isn’t a band a sort of family anyhow? Other characters seem to hold weight in the story, but it’s hard to identify who they are as they move in and out of the foreground. The gaps in the narrative don’t quite need explaining if you let yourself get lost in the mystic dreamlike flow of the movie like a strong current. It’s simply unlike anything else, heavily influenced by THE LITTLE MERMAID, and practically timeless due to its otherworldly visuals, with a flair of disco and punk.

The musical sequences are mesmerizing, the violence won’t disappoint, and the characters are beautiful. Agnieszka Smoczynska in her first feature film has told a personal story in a unique, magical voice. THE LURE is violent and often very sexy, but still feels innocent and honest.

Yet the reason THE LURE is so very good is that even in this surreal fantasy landscape, it taps into a lot of emotion. It’s not only a coming-of-age story about two mermaids, it’s a fairy tale about young women making sacrifices for love. This is the aspect that resonated the most with me — the fairy tale setup, which taught a more adult lesson about changing yourself to please someone you love than about the beauty of romance. Turning THE LITTLE MERMAID on its heels, THE LURE promises that the Ariel’s fantasy isn’t the fable you should be looking to. And never, ever sacrifice any part of yourself for a good-looking blonde.

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About the author
Madeleine Koestner
Madeleine Koestner is a writer, filmmaker and performer. She plays a ukulele and sings songs about ghosts in small venues in New York City. She likes beer, synthesizers and movies about death games. Sometimes Madeleine does special FX makeup and gore for low-budget horror movies. You can follow her on twitter @DVDBoxSet, but do so at your own risk, as she's really weird and inappropriate.
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