The Lure (Smoczynska, 2015)

The Lure is part-fairy tale, part-Bildungsroman, part-trippy rock opera, and a whole lotta ‘80s glitz and glam wrapped into one twisted, salacious treat. Except, it’s an incredibly messy one, so the experience is not as exceptional as I’ve made it sound. Executed properly, it would have been a sight to behold, and maybe one of the year’s top-tier imports. I mean, the very idea of singing, sharp-toothed mermaids being caught up in the trashy ambience of the nightclub scene is something that only comes about once in a blue moon.

Unfortunately, there are hindrances that keep it from attaining greatness. The music is relatively decent, but nothing stands out as particularly memorable (unless you count the number when the girls go shopping at the beginning, which is painfully kitschy). For me, a good musical needs at least one centerpiece; The Lure has none. There’s also some whiplash caused by the tug-of-war between the monstrousness of the mermaids and the Hans Christian Andersen elements. Both aspects of the lead characters seem to wrestle for primacy, with neither quite winning over the other. The horror aspect of the piece is also a copout, even though there are moments when you want it to go in that direction. You’re primed for something frightening, and the results rarely deliver.

Nevertheless, the ending is surprisingly tender, and well-played by all involved. You kind of already know it’s coming, but it still manages to make you feel something all the same. The leads are great, maintaining a captivating allure the whole way through. And the whole ‘80s nightclub setting is really fun. I don’t know why this is the setting, though by the first song you’re already well past caring.

If this film aspires to be a cult favourite, well, it may go down that route in Poland for all I know. In North America, it’s not going to be seen by very many, and those who do watch it probably wouldn’t flock to midnight screenings every Saturday wearing mermaid tails or anything. The main thing is that it’s an actual film, with some ambition and glam tucked away inside its playful interior. Even if it’s not a slam dunk in terms of quality, it’s still intoxicating, sexy, and campy in the way that more films should be.