Baddie – Underutilized myths.
Lesson – Sometimes the mermaid isn’t the problem. Sometimes it’s the guy behind you holding a grappling hook.
Despite the opening music sounding like someone applied the charming sounds of glass bowls over the original Jaws soundtrack, I am optimistic about Killer Mermaid (also called Nymph and originally Mamula). This is my first Serbian horror movie, which is also really exciting. Additionally, Killer Mermaid premiered at Cannes, which is kind of illustrious for a horror movie about a killer mermaid.
It opens with the death(s) of a pretty lady and her paramour. The latter by way of mermaid, the former by way of someone with a pronged anchor. If our titular mermaid has a living land companion AND operates by way of siren song as is heavily implied, that would be a nifty thing. Our actual protagonists, however, are two “American” women on vacation. I use quotes because both are international actresses, one with a pretty decent Ukranian twang. There is also some slight satire towards Americans…but, it’s pretty funny. At one point one of the girls wears a rhinestone-studded plaid shirt with American flag booty shorts, and corrects someone who apologizes; “I’m sorry my English isn’t good,” by cheerfully retorting “Oh, your American is great!”
One of the girls (Kelly) is scared of the water because her mother drowned, so naturally they vacation in the Mediterranean and then decide to go to another island surrounded by, uh, y’know, water. Worse? Probably the weird love triangle going on, but to the credit of the screenwriters, they manage to capture awkward dialogue between ex-lovers really well. Worse still is the handsome Serbian man Alex’s decision to take the whole group to go poking around an abandoned military base underneath an old prison on an island (called Manula, hence the title). The abandoned military base was apparently a Nazi base and a concentration camp.
I feel it’s important to mention that I have never been at a dinner party with four people where everyone decided to dance around (badly) to pop music for no apparent reason. Maybe I’m going to the wrong parties. There is an exceptional amount of random dancing in this movie. Maybe I need to go to the Mediterranean.
Killer Mermaid benefits greatly from it’s environment. The area they film in is beautiful, and the ruins on the island are the amazing. They provide an excellent backdrop for the harrowed chase scenes and inevitable horror of the mermaid and her manservant. The setting accomplishes the contrast of beautiful but deadly much better than the mermaid does.
Speaking of – I do have some complaints, because this is a review. Chief among them is the use of CGI for the mermaid herself. Well, okay , the whole mermaid. She’s played creepily enough, with jolty movements and dipping head motions one might associate with an animal. What kind of animal, I’m not sure, but an animal. Her makeup is well done, and aesthetically I have little complaint. A skin-toned mermaid with some soft blue shading and appropriate fins is really cool looking, plastic CGI tail aside. Even the ‘horror’ makeup is really neat, although the transition is awkward and rushed at best. Building on my musical complaint from before, the mermaid’s leitmotif is a lilting musical trio in the musical steps of ‘3 – 1 – 2’ which is vaguely like a cell phone alarm, or a music jingle. Scary it isn’t.
Let’s face it though – for a movie called Killer Mermaid, the mermaid herself is not scary. She kills maybe three times the entire movie, and appears to be somewhat totally inept at feeding herself. It’s not clear if she needs the guardian or just chooses to be fed by him, since she is super capable of hunting herself with the siren’s song. The filmmakers really don’t take advantage of having a swimming, luring, killing machine at their disposal, and the final fight scene is boring and anti-climatic.
There are some filming consistency problems, and the plot is not very tight. At some points it’s downright confusing, and definitely superfluous. The dialogue is mostly good, sometimes clearly translated, “That’s stuff that’s written in books! That’s myth!” however, is my favorite line, bar none. Killer Mermaid is pretty ‘meh’ in my book. Not really fun enough to qualify a casual viewing, but not bad either.