I’m an absolute sucker for musicals, especially ones that involve horror elements. Some of my favorites include The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Little Shop of Horrors, Sweeney Todd, Repo: The Genetic Opera, and The Phantom of the Paradise. Months ago, I saw the trailer for the Polish horror musical The Lure, a film about cannibalistic mermaid sisters in a cabaret. I knew as soon as I saw the trailer that I had to see the film.
After months of anticipation, I was finally able to pick up the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray. Did The Lure live up to my expectations?
The Lure is the debut feature from Agnieszka Smoczynska and written by Robert Bolesto based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, as well as Agnieszka’s experiences growing up in her mothers nightclub. The film stars Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska, Kinga Preis, Andrzej Konopka, Jakub Gierszal, and Zygmunt Malanowicz.
In Warsaw, a pair of mermaid sisters are adopted into a cabaret. While one seeks love with humans the other hungers to dine on the human population of the city
The Lure is one of the most unique films I have seen in quite some time. The film centers on two mermaid sisters who are literal man-eaters who find themselves in a cabaret in an alternate 1980s Warsaw, where they quickly become the star attraction. The film is unusual in its execution. It features minimal dialogue with most of the character development coming across through body language. The mood is set with songs that loosely relate to the plot.
The cast of characters starts out fairly likable before showing their flaws and dark side as the story progresses. The most intriguing and interesting character were Silver and Golden, the mermaid sisters, played excellently by Michalina Olszanska and Marta Mazurek (who is absolutely mesmerizing). They share a tight sisterly bond, which is tested when they find themselves wanting different things. Golden wants to enjoy her fame and feast on the locals before moving onward to America, while Silver quickly finds love with a member of their backing band and decides she wants to give up her tail (and by default her voice) so she can be with the one she loves.
Their happiness isn’t meant to last as the film takes a fairly dark and disturbing turn around the halfway mark. I must say the shift in tone is pretty jarring but I feel like this was probably intentional. Sometimes our lives throw crazy shit our way and sometimes our choices just fuck things up even worse. The film quickly descends into tragedy, with the ending leaving my heart broken into pieces.
The film is gorgeous to look at with wonderfully choreographed musical numbers. The sets are equal parts glam and scum. The cast does a great job portraying their characters and their various flaws. The two characters that hooked me on the movie were Silver and Golden. Marta Mazurek is simply stunning in every way. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen when she was on the scene. Her character, Silver, while being gorgeous, has a childlike innocence and is very naïve, pining for someone who sees her as little more than an animal and going out of her way to change herself to fit his standards. instead of embracing the beauty of who she is.
Golden is the polar opposite. She is a terrifying force of nature. She is a dark and sexy seductress who will tear your heart out, eat it for lunch and not feel bad about it. The only person she cares about is herself and her sister. Michalina Olszanska knocks it out of the park as Golden, perfectly embodying the unpredictable character and at the same time making her likable. You can’t fault her for embracing her nature. It’s who she is.
I originally found the supporting characters as well as the horror aspect in The Lure to be underdeveloped and underutilized respectively. After thinking about the film for the past day, I realize I was wrong. The supporting characters are mostly opportunists, exploiting the girls for their own gain. We never really get a feel for who they are, because they show their best face as long as they are getting what they want, but once that ceases, their masks drop. The outwardly horrific aspects are used sparingly until the final act but the 2nd act delves into a very real horror that we all face: The horror of growing up, the horror of heartbreak and loss, the feeling of needing to change who we are to make people love us, not realize that it is futile and only hurts us in the long run by causing us to lose our identity. The more I think about it the more I think The Lure is the type of film that will become more rewarding on subsequent viewings.
The Lure is strangely sexy, deeply disturbing, oddly fulfilling and utterly heartbreaking. I was captivated by the world as well as the relationship between the mermaid sisters. If you like musicals, dark fairy tales, and films that aren’t afraid to embrace the weirdness and dare to be different, then I highly recommend you check out The Lure, it just might hook you and reel you in.