★★.5 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Perry Blackshear
A somber, quiet, and contemplative affair. This faux mythology, while largely devoid of dialogue, packs away some interesting social/sexual dynamics. Fans of Troma and Full Moon be forewarned, this film is NOT for you. While it is a monster movie that’s loosely based on the eastern European “Rusalka” water harpy myth, this is not the Toxic Avenger, nor is it the Evil Bong.
Not to be confused with the 2016 film of the same name and genre, 2019’s Siren involves three characters — two with beards. Directed and written by long-time horror short director Perry Blackshear, the Siren quietly (emphasis on the quiet) unfolds with the death of a man at the hands of stunning water-borne she-beast. The aforementioned she-beast, Nina (Maragaret Ying Drake) has somewhat inexplicably killed the (bearded) husband of a local bearded man, Al (Macleod Andrews) in an underwater skirmish.
Shortly after the death of Al’s husband a young bearded bible studies prodigy, Tom (Evan Domouchel — Dr. Sleep and They Look Like People) arrives on scene to occupy a cozy lakeside cabin for the summer. Ostensibly there to focus on getting right with god, Tom settles in to a summer of sun, rest, relaxation, and John 3:16. Upon arrival Tom meets Al and discloses through the use of smart-phone technology that his throat was crushed years ago in a swimming accident. While he is mute, he’s not deaf. Al and Tom hit it off through smart-phones, pantomime, and Tom’s inherent ability to act as Al’s defacto counselor listening to the woes brought on by his deceased husband. In an interesting but pale bit of foreshadowing, Tom discloses that not only is he mute but he’s deathly afraid of water as a result of the swimming accident that rendered him mute.
The summer relaxation quickly glides in to spooky noises (not too spooky), strange occurrences of water (not too strange), and the appearance of striking young local, Nina, who swims throughout the lake — night and day. In a weird display of exposition, the Siren discloses, in the opening scene of the film, that Nina is the siren, and she’s also the one that drowned Al’s husband. The tension that builds is constructed around Tom and Nina and whether the young bible enthusiast will fall prey to the lovely, but evil, Rusalka beast. It’s painfully clear Tom is psychologically unable to conquer his fear of water, despite its baptismal qualities, and Nina must remain in the water or perish. What’s a couple to do?
What evolves in the course of one hour and 18 minutes is an intriguing, but incomplete vision about revenge, redemption, and the very real possibility that monsters are real, but don’t necessarily have ill intentions. While relatively short, the Siren could have been better served as a short, but horrifying, horror short. The quiet and somber hour exploring Tom and Nina’s human/monster courtship could have easily been whittled down to a far smaller wooing with a much crisper exploration of Nina’s mythological intentions. Director Perry Blackshear has a definite eye for beauty, tranquility, and the oft-forgotten art of letting the visuals fill the space that’s normally consigned to a barrage of blather. The Siren has a point of view, but it’s unfortunate that this sleek and lovely outing isn’t entirely open in its motives.