Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Movies: But back to Whitford/Hadley’s fish-man boner.

Remember the running gag about mermen in Cabin in the Woods?

Let’s assume that the whole “the film’s a metaphor for films” thing is true (which, of course it is, they all are), than you can posit a scenario in which Bradley Whitford’s character is a horror audience member (which is kinda a sloppy metaphor, since he’s kinda also the co-director of the “movie” of the ritual – which reveals something of the real driver here: it’s less a metaphor about film as art than a metaphor about being a filmmaker and yet another lecture on why we should be grateful to pay for marginal improvements because, oh dear God, they could do so much awesome if we just wouldn’t tie their hands with our ignorant audience entitlement . . . but I digress) whose obsession with seeing mermen, which is constantly thwarted by the repeated appearance of endless variations of the zombie subgenre, speaks to our alleged desire to see something new.

Yes, I decided to appear again, after a, what?, more than three year absence, with a paragraph long sentence. I’ve missed you guys so much.

But back to Whitford/Hadley’s fish-man boner.

So Hadley is desperate for something other than zombies and he’s pinned his hopes on mer-people. This might seem odd, given that, cinematically, the dominate image the vast majority of us have of mer-people is a just-no-longer-tween red head in a shell bra who needs to be reminded by a pan-Caribbean crab that things are better down where it’s wetter. . . Get your mind out of the gutter, you sad, sick reader. But, taking the longer view, Haldey’s on point. Traditionally, mer-people are total vicious bastards. I’ll cite a single example. In 2009, Bavarian cultural curator Erika Eichenseer found a stash of previously undocumented fairy tales from Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, a historian who transcribed them in the 19th century. Unlike the Brothers Grimm, who had their daughters filter the tales and clean them up for public consumption, von Schönwerth’s tales were recorded as raw research materials, and not intended for a larger, commercial audience. These tales depict mermaids as creepy seductresses, who lure men away from their homes with promises of the untold pleasures that wait in the mermaid’s watery realm. The only condition, of course, is that the victim completely forget his surface life (mermaids, in the old tales, never prey upon women). Mermen, on the other hand, are far less cunning and graceful. They’re basically what you’d get if you crossed Jaws and the Creature from the Black Lagoon with a serial rapist. It isn’t pretty. There’s no hot crustacean band.

But back to Hadley’s fatal jones for mer-based horror: Hadley, of course, gets his wish. And it kills him. In terms of the film’s central metaphor, it’s a basic be careful what you wish for theme.

Keeping that in mind, Killer Mermaid (a.k.a. Nymph, a.k.a. Mamula) is the mermaid horror film you’ve erroneously been wishing for, Hadley.

Killer Mermaid follows the adventures of two young women on a get-your-groove-back Euro trip. The first, Kelly, is an uptight American, whose work and romantic hang-ups provide a sort of running tsk-tsk throughout the movie. Oddly enough, Kelly’s agreed to vacation on the seashore despite the fact that her suitcase is full of backstory explaining why she fears the water. She’s the wingwoman of Lucy, an absurdly hot ex pat local who is arguably a supporting character, but is far better loved by the camera and given far more plot points to claim as her own. And I mean absurdly hot, emphasis on the absurd. There’s a certain beauty that is a product of an almost monastic commitment to being pretty. It comes at the cost of individuality and is the result of a deliberate program of becoming what a vast constellation of industry and media have set as the collective definition of the beautiful. There’s an almost suicidal heroism in achieving it. The result is high-gloss, discomfortingly robotic, but undeniably beautiful. It has to be: even when you know it is fake and impersonal and imposed upon you, you are also aware that the shared paradigm of concepts we use to dissect the world around us doesn’t give you any other choice but to give in. (This is weirdly relevant later, when the titular homicidal fish-lady shows up.) It’s beauty that demands a kind of bitter submission. When we first meet Kelly and Lucy, Kelly is busy trying to text work and Lucy is busy letting the camera goes into full “mostra the riches” mode on her bikini clad pert posterior. This effectively sets up everything we need to know about these to protagonists: one is a work text, the other is precision-tooled hot ass in a bikini.

Turns out that Kelly and Lucy are in Montenegro (which reminds me, later, ask me to tell you a kind of funny thing about this bartender I know who is from Montenegro – she’s a peach and it’s a cute little storyette) to touch base with a college friend, a former party boy Alex. Lucy still holds a bit of a torch for Alex, which is complicated because the once famous rover is engaged. This doesn’t stop Lucy from totally wetting down his wick . . . Ah, fuck it, you know what, none of this matters. This shit goes on for like 50 minutes of a 90-minute movie. And seriously, who cares?

 The thing is there’s a bunch a fakey drama that eventually gets Lucy, Kelly, Alex, Alex’s wife-to-be, and this painfully horndog Euro bro Bob (Americanized from something vaguely Bobish in Montenegran) stuck on an island the aforementioned mermaid of lethal variety and a weird murderous guardian fisherman guy who, sadly, is actually played by Franco “the first Django” Nero.

 What doesn’t work with Killer Mermaid? Pacing mainly. For nearly an hour the flick wanders about, exploring the “problem” of Lucy’s lingering desire for Alex, as if we clicked play on a film called Killer Mermaid to ponder in depth the relationship problems of seemingly wealthy without working hot younger people. There’s a place for that and it’s called “not anywhere in a movie called Killer Mermaid.” I hate to sound philistine here, but when you put a killer mermaid in the title of your flick, I’d like to see some killing, preferably done by mermaid. That title makes a promise and, call me naïve, I think it is fair for me to expect you to keep it. Instead, the film strolls towards the mermaid thing, sticking in weird kill scenes involving Nero’s fisherman character, seemingly just to remind us that this is ostensibly a horror flick. The film, on multiple occasions, introduces some nameless character whose sole function is to get offed by the fisherman. They rarely get more than a minute or two of screen time.

What does work? Well, Montenegro for one thing. If there wasn’t a weirdo killer fisherman and an especially mean mergirl in this pic, it could serve as an ad for the tourism board. The only thing the camera loves more in this flick then Lucy’s generic hotness is the beauty of the Mediterranean coast of Montenegro. And I can find no fault with that; it is truly stunning.

I’ve already droned on too long about this particular flick. Killer Mermaid is a pretty drag. It nice to look at, and when it is getting down to crass tacks, it can deliver the goods; but it takes too long to get there and you’re probably better off budgeting time for a less leisurely flick.


Pauline said...

You're back! How we've missed you. Thanks for this; as always, a great read.

Heather Santrous said...

So good to see that you are back! Drop me an email sometime when you can.

CRwM said...

Hey guys! Good to be back.

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