THE LURE: The Mermaid Horror Musical You Didn’t Know You Wanted
A reworking of The Little Mermaid, Agnieszka Smoczynska's The Lure is quite a unique and often spectacular cinematic treat.
The Lure is what you’d get if you took the basic story structure of Hans Christian Anderson‘s The Little Mermaid, added the musical nature of the early ’90s Disney animation, changed the setting to a Polish strip club in the 1980s, and then instilled the mermaids with a thirst for human blood.
Agnieszka Smoczyńska‘s film is as strange as that sounds, but there’s a lot to admire about it as well; from the exuberant soundtrack, to its eye-popping visuals, to its deeper allegory about the nature of sexuality. As a whole it’s bumpy, but it’s a dive worth taking.
Fairy Tale Reworking
Two mermaid sisters named Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszańska) are close to shore one evening when they spot a lively rock band playing on the beach. Intrigued, they set out from the ocean in an attempt to explore the above-ground world. This leads to a job at a Polish strip club, working as a duo called The Lure, which consists of them dancing and singing in front of rowdy bar patrons.
Outside of this gig, the two sisters also start to explore interpersonal relationships, which includes Golden’s attempts to fall in love and Silver’s growing desire to feast upon human flesh. Golden soon discovers that she could permanently join the humans if she has her tail removed, but she would also lose her voice in the process.
Though people might know Hans Christian Anderson‘s classic fairy tale primarily from the fluffy Disney adaptation, it’s actually quite a dark story in many ways, delving into the tragic story of a little mermaid who attempts, and ultimately fails, to establish herself in an unfamiliar world. Tone-wise and in some narrative aspects as well, The Lure is actually closer to the story than the Disney version, refusing to shy away from the bleaker aspects that come hand-in-hand (foot-in-foot?) with progressing through life as a human being.
Music and Visuals
Perhaps in a further nod to this distinction, Smoczyńska‘s film is also a musical, much like the Disney film. The songs range from energetic ’80s-influenced rock ballads to more quiet and introspective solo pieces. As a whole, the music is typically somber and sorrowful in nature, often taking the place of dialogue much like an operetta. It’s a further indicator by Smoczyńska that, much like life, there will be no sugar-coating here.
To be fair, not all the songs in The Lure are destined to be top 40 hits, and sometimes do overstay their welcome. The choreography is also a bit off-kilter, resulting in some awkwardly distracting side dancers. But when the songs come together smoothly, they can be quite haunting and catchy, such as one by Golden that she sings to her prospective romantic interest, which plays while the two are lovingly caressing one other while immersed underwater.
The Lure is often quite beautiful to look at. Much of the film is bathed in this similar stark neon light, with a special emphasis on greens and blues, making it feel much like an underwater experience even during scenes taking place on land.
At other times, the film lavishes in horrific images, which range from the transformative process that Golden endures in order to become permanently human to the mermaids tearing into a person’s flesh in order to devour their internal organs. Far from the delicate creatures as they are sometimes depicted, the mermaid sisters of The Lure can instead become quite ruthlessly violent and vengeful.
Sexuality and Allegories
In a way, The Lure reminded me of another film about femininity from last year, called Raw, which dealt similarly with a young girl developing a taste for human flesh. Though not explicitly stated, it’s thought that the girl’s growing cannibalistic urges are meant to be an allegory for the budding sexual desires that come with adolescence.
In The Lure, a similar allegory can be seen through the contrasting personas of Golden and Silver; while Silver starts to use her sexuality for her own gains, Golden wants nothing more than a romantic connection with a human male. This is played to perfection by both Marta Mazurek as the menacing Silver and Michalina Olszańska as the bright and hopeful Golden, two young actresses that play to their strengths when imbuing the polar personalities of their respective characters.
Both characters, and indeed the film in general, allegorizes the life of women, in a story that walks through birth, adolescence, and adulthood, albeit through the perspective of mermaids. Indeed, the mermaids themselves, who Smoczyńska has stated are meant to symbolize innocence, are frequently sexualized and abused. In contrast once again to the Disney animation, this is no fairy tale – it doesn’t end particularly happy for everyone, and, though that seems to be a bleak and depressing prospect, it’s also an unfortunate reality of the world we live in.
Smoczyńska‘s message here does tend to get a bit muddied, especially during some lengthy surreal song sequences, which can be hard to decipher as to their grander purpose, but perhaps this is just a film that requires your full attention (and possibly multiple viewings as well). I, for one, am looking forward to stepping back into Smoczyńska‘s lavishly horrifying song-and-dance world at some point in the future.
Conclusion: The Lure
Agnieszka Smoczyńska‘s reworking of the Little Mermaid fairy tale might not be for everyone; indeed, even for the seasoned movie-goer it might at times be an uncomfortable experience to sit through. The Lure is bizarre, surreal, haunting, and yet strangely alluring all at the same time – but for an ’80s-set horror musical about vampiric mermaids, would else could you expect?
What are your thoughts on The Lure? Are you familiar with the the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
The Lure is now available on Blu-ray and VOD.
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