Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Lure, or: Killer Mermaid, Take Two

I think this may be the first Polish film of the blog collab?  Don’t quote me on that.  Either way, this is our second outing into killer mermaid features, and it’s pretty safe to say there’s no movie quite like this one in any language.

The Film:

The Lure (Córki Dancingu)

The Premise:

This loose modernization of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” features much more gore, cabaret numbers, and fangs than most adaptations.

The Uncondensed Version:

Silver and Golden are two teenage girls who have run away from home to experience life in the big city (Warsaw) and end up performing in a cabaret.  Important details:  their home is the ocean, they are sirens whose tails reappear whenever they come into contact with water, and they subsist at least partially on human flesh.  They also don’t have female genitalia when they’re in human form, ruling out the possibility of a fully nude number for the two.

A teen with a mermaid tale reclines in a bathtub.
Another advantage of living on land = opportunities for angsty bathtub singing.

None of this information is especially critical to the staff and owner of the cabaret as they quickly recognize the novelty (and profit) of a siren sister duet…in a cabaret conveniently called The Lure (except in Polish).  Krysia, the lead singer at the cabaret and recruiter of this new talent, brings the sisters into her family in part to help…and in part to pocket their salary.

Since our story pivots around the cabaret, there are many musical numbers that flow seamlessly into the narrative.  The song transition is never jarring, and they almost always work in conjunction with the plot for added poignancy and drama (I have to admit, there were some that were a bit too surreal for me to follow.  More on that later).

Silver and Golden decide they have a pretty good thing going and telepathically agree to stick around for a while before swimming on, though with strikingly divergent motives—Silver has taken a shine to a young bassist at the cabaret, Mietek, while Golden’s sights are aimed in a much more sinister direction.

Two teens are performing at the center of a mob of people in a green-lit nightclub.
However,  both can agree on the effectiveness of the smokey eye look.

Golden thirsts for blood and begins picking up any willing victim she can to devour.  She is also intrigued by a man with horrible scars who’s going for a distinctly Ozzy Osbourne vibe…and like our main girls, seems to be something not entirely human.

Silver, on the other hand, is content to spend time with Mietek, even when he’s not especially jazzed to be associated with her.  He flat-out tells Silver she’ll always be a fish to him first, but this doesn’t deter her.  Neither sister approves of the other’s pursuits, but they both take a live and let live approach until it’s too late.

A teen stares off into the distance while her sister makes out with a teen boy in the background.
Relateable “Your relationship is a huge mistake” face.

Finally, the bodies pile up to the degree that people start paying attention—namely, Krysia and the cabaret “family” who lives with her.  Suspecting Silver and Golden, the humans take matters into their own hands.  You know it’s a fucking terrible idea to face off against bloodthirsty sirens with fangs and the power to hypnotize, so this doesn’t end especially well for some of them.

It just gets crazier as Silver undergoes dramatic surgery to finally have legs and live happily ever after with her man, Golden is draw more and more to the Ozzy wannabe and the other land-dwelling sea creatures, and the dark mythology of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale takes shape.

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

The film itself can be messy and confusing at times, which is just amplified by some of the bizarre song choices and (mis)translations (there’s a song that is translated to include multiple uses of the word “y’all,” which just feels out of place).  Case in point = a song performed by a nurse who dances around the dazed members of Krysia’s household while hooking them up to an IV drip.  What.

But all complaints are minor.  Even though following the plot sequentially is virtually impossible, the film is still completely mesmerizing.  The visuals are absolutely gorgeous, our two leads are deeply amoral and fascinating to watch, and the social commentary feels so relevant.  This fits nicely in with the magic realist tradition of weaving a fantasy seamlessly into an ordinary situation with a purpose—among other things, the commodification of abnormal bodies, voyeuristic tendencies towards young women and teens, and the impossibility of conforming to the supposedly ideal body type.

I’m reminded of elements of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night–amoral, non-human women in a shady part of town dispensing their own version of justice…or reigning horror down upon any unlucky enough to cross their path.

Word of caution:  this is exceptionally gory, especially some surgical scenes that made me feel very squeamish.  And I think you know by now how frequently gory madness adds fuel to the fire of this blog collab.

Did this one’s siren song mesmerize my blog wife or should it go swim with the fishes (sorry/not sorry)?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Tenant, or: Please Don’t Make Poles Talk About Feelings

This is easily our classiest horror-themed month for the Blog Collab, so of course we’re working in a…classic…Polanski film?

The Film:

The Tenant

Where to Watch:

Reasonably challenging to find (at least for free)–good luck!

The Uncondensed Version:

Trelkovsky is a Pole looking for an apartment in Paris.  He asks the concierge to show him the apartment, but she is rather unwelcoming and initially dismissive until bribed.  Her dog isn’t any friendlier and tries to bite him in a scene reminiscent of The Pink Panther Strikes Again (which coincidentally[?] was released the same year).

a man recoils from a small dog sitting on a plush chair
“Does your dog bite?”

The concierge reveals the previous tenant threw herself out of the window, and shows Trelkovsky the glass that needs to be repaired below.  She rather cryptically explains that the previous tenant isn’t dead, but won’t be returning to the apartment and laughs rather sinisterly.  There is also no bathroom in the apartment.  Even so, apartments are hard to come by in Paris, so Trelkovsky eagerly snatches the place up (I can relate even in Dayton).

Out of curiosity, Trelkovsky tracks down the previous tenant in the hospital, Simone Choule.  Simone has just woken from a coma and is in a full body cast, but it doesn’t stop her from producing absolutely horrific screams when she sees Trelkovsky, her friend Stella, or perhaps all of the above.

a man in a suit stands next to a woman wearing a scarf, colorful necklace, and fur-lined jacket
So much ’70s chic happening in this still.

Perhaps to seem a bit less of a creep, Trelkovsky pretends to be a friend of Simone’s, which gets him a drink and a semi-drunken grope at the movies with Stella.

Trelkovsky invites a few people over to celebrate his new place and in general goes about having a normal life, but there is a vague sense that all is not well when increasingly surreal incidents begin happening.  First, he finds a human tooth in a hole in the wall.  Then, he is confronted by a woman and her young daughter about a noise complaint he allegedly made about them.  In turn, he is on the receiving end of several noise complaints.  He also sees people just silently standing unmoving in the toilet for hours.

Further complications arise when one of Simone’s friends visits the apartment and reveals he was in love with her.  Once he starts crying, he can’t stop and (like a true Pole), Trelkovsky becomes incredibly uncomfortable in the face of emotions.

a man rests his head on his hands at a bar, seated next to another man
I’ve seen 127 Hours…there’s only one way this can end.

The turning point seems to be when Trelkovsky’s apartment is robbed and, rather than looking out for him, the neighbors and landlord continue to harangue him about how much noise he makes.  Trelkovsky, quite patient up to this point, becomes irritable, paranoid, and quite unhinged.

It just gets more confusing when he is asked to sign a petition complaining about tenants he has never met, buys a wig, slaps a random child (I mean, who hasn’t had that impulse?), and witnesses a very strange ritual in the streets.  As he unravels completely, Trelkovsky insists that “they” drove Simone to suicide, and they are trying to do the same with him.  I say this rhetorically but also in hopes of an answer—what the actual fuck is going on with this film?

an older man holding a baguette gestures to another man standing in the hallway of an apartment building
I walk around with a baguette since I am stereotypical French landlord.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

If this weren’t for the blog, I probably would’ve given up on this one.  It’s a solid 2 hours and only gets more incomprehensible as the time goes on.

What I do like about this one is the commentary on city life and living amongst strangers.  Trelkovsky tries to keep to himself as advised, but he is still on the receiving end of noise complaints and interference from nosy neighbors.  There is an absurdity to the entire situation—no matter how quietly he lives, his neighbors find fault and want him to essentially cease to exist.  The landlord suggests he wear slippers, and the police even intervene when they receive multiple noise complaints about Trelkovsky.

Ironically, everyone (including those dispensing unwanted advice) tells Trelkovsky to mind his own business to solve his neighbor problems.  (And we all remember how well that worked for Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.)  This further antagonizes him, making him even more isolated and paranoid.

The ending reminds me so much of Rosemary’s Baby, with Trelkovsky becoming cornered and trapped just as much as Rosemary by dark and perhaps evil forces (Rosemary’s Baby is so much better, though).  As with every Roman Polanski movie, this just sort of makes me want to watch Chinatown again.  Or maybe I should just…leave it (sorry [no, I’m not]).

Would Christa have a drink and uncomfortable cry with this film or start a petition to get this one out of her neighborhood?  Find out by reading her review here!