REVIEW: The Lure (2015)

Content warning: This review addresses themes of domestic violence and violence against women. Also, contains spoilers. 

A hypnotic musical horror about man-eating mermaids working in a cabaret club in an alternate 1980s Warsaw, Córki dancingu (The Lure) is a reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska. With a dream-like blend of fantasy, horror, musical, romance and drama, this film is like something straight out of the David Lynch playbook and is just as strange as it sounds. It certainly didn’t disappoint. 

In the film’s opening scene, rock band Fig ’n’ Dates play music on a beach in the nighttime. Watching them from the sea, siren sisters Srebrna (Marta Mazurek) and Zlota (Michalina Olszańska), their names translating to Silver and Golden, sing a haunting siren song, luring the two men in the band into the water, but they are interrupted by lead singer Krysia’s (Kinga Preis) petrified screams.  

The sisters emerge from the sea to accompany the band to a cabaret nightclub where they’re hired to perform in their very own seductive act and become overnight sensations. 

The film is a tantalising yet nightmarish coming-of-age exploration of the girls’ new life in Warsaw. We experience Srebrna’s first cigarette alongside her and watch her grow smitten with bassist Mietek (Jakub Gierszał), who tells her she will “always be a fish, an animal” to him. Heartbreaking, to say the least, but for mermaids, falling in love with a human carries a great risk. As a fellow man from the sea warns Zlota, “if she falls in love with a human and he marries someone else, she’ll turn into sea foam before the night is out”. Unless, of course, she eats him first.  

There is a remarkable innocence to Srebrna’s character, the sweeter of the two, contrasted by her more devious sister whose movements throughout the film are bold, self-serving and somewhat  chaotic.  

While Srebrna is wrapped up in her romance, the sisters’ bond suffers a rift, and Zlota is left feeling both angry and alone. Her story takes us on a different journey, from flirting with a man at the club and later ripping his flesh out with her teeth in a delightfully gory scene at the beach, to her first sexual experience with a woman. 

The film takes an even darker, unexpected turn, as it reveals intimate moments within the strange and toxic family dynamic formed between the band and the girls, and explores the horrifying reality of sexual exploitation, and family and male violence. This is where we see the sisters unify and come out of these depths stronger, in all their man-eating glory. 

The musical component of the film is a collection of ‘80s-style synthpop numbers composed by Polish band Ballady I Romanse, performed either on stage at the club or as classic musical sequences. Surprisingly, this didn’t cheapen the film at all, and the diverse arrangement of musical sequences, both upbeat and chilling, integrates perfectly with the story. 

As my first taste of a musical/horror hybrid, I went into this film not knowing what to expect. But I’m glad I took the plunge. With its exploration of male violence, exploitation, and feminine power, The Lure is beautifully weird, haunting, and relatable, and I cannot recommend it enough. 

Ivana Daskalovic
Ivana Daskalovic

Ivana Daskalovic is a Meanjin-based student journalist studying a Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) and Bachelor of Laws (Honours) at QUT.

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