With the recent release of “La La Land”, the whole world seemed to have flown off the handle, and perhaps, for a good reason – the musical about jazz, pursuing dreams and falling in love in Los Angeles has hit the record with 14 Oscar nominations. Luckily, musical lovers have a chance to have a whale of a time with the new thing of the genre that came out in New York’s IFC Center on 1st of February – “The Lure”.

“The Lure” is a debut work of Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska, and can be called a kind of horror-musical mashup. It is a sleezy and rather dark interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” that, apparently, turns out to have very little in common with the original fairy tale.

"The Lure": New Polish Horror-Musical, Mermaids Starring

The action is set in 80’s in Poland, following the two mermaid sisters, Golden (Michalina Olszańska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek), with carnivorous tendencies (see: love for ripping human throats) and a dream of swimming to America. One day, their siren songs enchant the young bass player (Jakub Gierszał) from a family band, who offers them stripping singer jobs at a club he works in. He instantly gains Silver’s love, however their chance to have a healthy relationship is very slim – the bass player does not see Silver as a true human.

Although we would not wish to see Disney-like innocent mermaids with long wavy hair and purple bras, Silver’s story somehow resembles that of Ariel’s. Desperate in her attempt to become a real human after she gets rejected by the guy she loves, Silver undergoes a lurid “surgery” – the movie scene shows her being cut in half by a saw and then the bottom being replaced with a woman’s fully functioning half of the body. Golden, conversely, would not forfeit her freedom to love, as she wants to remain who she is – a predator.

 “Two mermaid sisters onto land, where they look for love, feast on human flesh and find work singing and stripping at a nightclub that might have come from an early David Lynch movie or a vintage-’80s music video,” – this is how New York Times outlined “The Lure” in short. The movie synopsis might give an antagonistic impression, but do not be too quick at making your verdict. What first seems as a new mediocre fantasy-horror version of an old fairy tale for children, is in fact a story about outsiders who struggle making their way through the new world. It draws a parallel between the arduous process of growing up when you are a female, and the dilemma of those who have to make their living as refugees. “The mermaids are like immigrants because they are from the outside, and they come to our world,” says Agnieszka Smoczyńska. “They are treated as animals.”

For Smoczyńska, this is not the first time she builds on a musical – she had previously dealt with musical performance in her short film “Aria Diva”. Using All That Jazz and Cabaret musicals as inspiration, she managed to create her first feature film with the budget not even close to one they often have in Hollywood. “The Lure” does not lack in realism of special effects, as Poland’s best media company, Platige Image, was involved in the production.

"The Lure": New Polish Horror-Musical, Mermaids Starring

One of the ideas behind the filmmaking and screenwriting of “The Lure” was acquired through a real-life context – the story of Golden and Silver is based on two sisters, Barbara and Zuzanna Wrońska, who had a band called Ballady i Romanse. Robert Bolesto, the screenwriter, wanted to make a movie about their childhood, and how they grew up in a dance club where their parents performed.

Unlike most other musicals, “The Lure” features live singing of the actors. According to Agnieszka, musicals are not a common thing in Poland, rather exceptional, so there was no one out there to help her make the musical much authentic. “We did decide to have our actors and actresses sing live on the set. This was important because, for instance, when Marta [Mazurek] sang, she acted with completely different emotions than she would have if she had recorded the song before shooting,” – Smoczyńska told the Observer.

"The Lure": New Polish Horror-Musical, Mermaids Starring

Although “The Lure” did not get much of the support in the homeland, it has unexpectedly hit the American viewers, having been massively discussed right now and even called “the Polish cannibal mermaid musical”.

The Lure somehow manages to seamlessly assemble a film equal parts hilarious, affecting, and grisly while trading and warping aesthetics and tones by the scene. A savage coming-of-age fairytale with a catchy new-wave soundtrack, lavishly grimy sets, and outrageous musical numbers, The Lure explores its themes of sexuality, exploitation, and the compromises of adulthood with energy and originality.” – Sundance Film Review.

Subscribe to WM Daily. Be In Touch With Rebellious Voices