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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 03.22.17] Poland musical horror comedy drama

Cannibalistic mermaid movie. If that doesn't make your heart flutter, we can't be friends.

The very concept of director Agnieszka Smoczynska's feature film debut The Lure is this perfect mesh of material specifically designed for someone who, like me, loves a good fairy tale, a dash of horror and cheesy 80s dance music.

Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska) are mermaid sisters who are adopted into a cabaret in Warsaw by the house band led by a singer (Kinga Preis) and her husband and drummer (Andrzej Konopka). The girls are an instant hit, performing a nightly show for a packed house.

Silver quickly falls in love with the band's base player but Golden is more interested in eating the locals. Eventually Silver makes the ultimate sacrifice and trades in her fin for legs but for her, things don't end with a "happily ever after" and in that respect, the movie is more in line with Hans Christian Andersen's original tale than the Disney version. As for Golden... let's just say she gets her revenge.

The very fact The Lure exists and is getting some sort of release in North America is a small miracle but not a huge surprise. The movie is well produced and features not just a beautiful cast but one that is more than capable of some fairly emotive performances particularly the lead singer/surrogate mother played by Preis. She is mesmerizing and from the first time we see her on screen she is magnetic, commanding the screen even in scenes when she's a background player.

The 80s setting allows for a touch of disco cheesiness which beautifully compliments the music. And really, this works because of the music. Even though there's a sense that the translation loses some of storytelling in the songs, the musical numbers transcend language to be toe-tapping earworms. Sadly as a cohesive movie, The Lure simply doesn't work.

The overall concept is sound and some of the themes, particularly those of love, sacrifice, and female empowerment, are complicated in nature but clearly presented throughout but the movie feels more like a collection of vignettes on a central idea than a movie. There are entire scenes that do nothing for the plot and which are sandwiched between other scenes which are actually integral to the story. One such example, and perhaps the movie's most audacious and fantastic moment, is a musical/dance number which doesn't add anything to the story. It feels like it could have been dropped in anywhere or left out completely and yet it's so damned fun to watch.

Perhaps that's the beauty of The Lure. Even though it doesn't fully succeed, it's ridiculously fun to watch and has enough momentum and charm that for the most part, it surpasses its shortfalls.

The Lure is currently playing in limited release.

Recommended Release: Phantom of the Paradise

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