Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Siren (2010)

Not to be confused with all those other Sirens.

Rachel (Anna Skellern), her rather jerky boyfriend Ken (Eoin Macken) and Rachel's old college flame Marco (Anthony Jabre) are going on a yachting trip around some islands off the coast of Tunisia (I think). There's a certain amount of tension in the air, because Rachel and Ken don't really seem of one mind about the direction their relationship is heading in, while Marco still has a major crush on Rachel.

While cruising (or whatever it is that boats do) around an island, Marco spots a man in obvious need of help. Trying to get him on board, the not-that-intrepid sailor also manages to damage the yacht enough to ensure he and his friends will be stuck for at least a day or two. That's only a minor problem for now anyway: the new guest is of much greater immediate import, bleeding from his ears and ranting and raving in French as he does. He falls down dead soon enough, though.

Ken has the bright idea to not take the dead body back to the authorities for fear that he and his friends will be held responsible for the death. So, obviously, it's off to the island to bury the body. It's absolutely reasonable, honestly.

On the island, the trio meets a girl calling herself Silka (Tereza Srbova). She doesn't talk much, and says she doesn't remember a thing about what happened to her or if she even knew the dead guy, but everyone fastly takes a shine on her, which ratchets the sexual tension up another notch. A night of drinking and some rather uncanny singing (did you know the Siren's Song is in English?) ends in off-screen sex between Silka and Rachel, and some unpleasant waking dreams for the boys.

Silka is quite obviously the siren of myth, and she really hasn't much use for men except as murder victims, but she has better plans for Rachel.

Andrew Hull's Siren is a surprisingly decent movie. It's not the most intellectually demanding horror film I've seen, but it's really trying its best to ground its supernatural threat in the psychology of its characters, and though that psychology isn't all that original or surprising, the film still beats your basic hack and slash by miles. Given how many of the film's psychological underpinnings are based on the characters' unspoken and un-acted on sexual desires, I found it a bit surprising Hull didn't decide to go into a more sleazy direction. There's a bit of very tame sex, lots of tense staring and a bit of snogging on screen, but for a film that is about a supernatural creature using and abusing sexuality, it's all very low-key. Perhaps that's an attempt to stay classy. After all, it is really not difficult to imagine how including a lot of sex scenes done in the wrong style could easily drag the film in the direction of the unintentionally funny. However, the film's coyness seems like a bit of a cop-out to me. Now, Siren avoids the ridiculous, but through this avoidance also keeps itself from the potential of becoming actually erotic horror.

Still, Hull manages to create some moments of erotic tension - therefore many more than many other horror films trying to be erotic do - and is also pretty good at staging the fast deterioration of his characters' ability to tell what's real from that what's imagined while still keeping the plot coherent. The latter is so often the point where contemporary supernatural horror fails that this alone makes the film commendable; Siren's air of assured, though not spectacular, professionalism in its basic filmmaking skills is a nice bonus.

The acting's on the level too, never spectacular, but convincing enough even in those moments where truly bad performances would drag the film down. Although it's quite beyond me why you'd want to cast the less able of your two lead actresses as the siren character. The siren, after all, should just burst with charisma or an air of the otherworldly. It's probably a Slavic cheekbone thing I wouldn't understand.

However, all the film's minor flaws do not detract from a simple fact: Siren is pretty good at being the small, unassuming horror film that it is, and - while it's never going to be called a classic - it's a bit closer to the concept of the uncanny than many of its peers.


No comments: