[6 April 2011]
From the packaging, you couldn’t be blamed for expecting Siren to be pure sexploitation masquerading as a horror flick. After all, the DVD cover is dominated by the image of a bikini-clad woman wielding a bloody knife. Well, the picture is most of a bikini-clad woman, you only get a view of her body from knee to neck, her face is obscured by the title. This seems to tell you something about the movie you’re about to watch, but this is the first time the movie subverts your expectations. While there is a definite sexual component to the film, in the very first scene you watch Rachel (Anna Skellern) and Ken (Eoin Macken) engage in some sexy-hitchhiker-fantasy role-play, the emphasis is more on atmosphere and tension than T & A. Instead of non-stop nipple slips and erotic romping, Sirens turns out to be a decent little supernatural psychological thriller.
As a production, Siren is minimal in nature. There are only six actors named in the credits, only four of those have any meaningful screen time, and the majority of the action takes place in one of two places, on a boat or on the beach of a deserted island. Director Andrew Hull, in his only full-length feature before his untimely death from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident, does a lot with a little, and makes great use of the resources he does have at his disposal. In this way Siren is reminiscent of Slaughter Island, a Japanese horror film from 2008 about a group of teens on a mysterious island that uses similarly limited means to surprising effectiveness.
Rachel and Ken have been together for some undisclosed amount of time, though it has been long enough that she is considering the future, while he has become somewhat bored by their sex life, hence the prohibitive attempt at role-playing, which was definitely his idea. They meet Marco (Anthony Jabre), an old friend of Rachel’s who has been travelling the world for the past few years. He has a nicely manicured neck beard, and some unresolved romantic feelings for Rachel. The trio takes a borrowed sailboat out for a fun weekend in the sun, but not before being warned by a wise local dockworker, semi seriously, to look out for the legendary sirens of Greek mythology.
While Rachel and Ken get busy below deck, Marco is lured in too close to a remote island, where they boat becomes stranded, and they rescue a crazy man who is bleeding from his ears and who dies almost immediately. That’s a bad omen. When someone who looks like a crazy version of Tommy Chong, climbs onto your boat, bleeding all over, and then kicks the bucket, nothing good is going to come from any further exploration. Get out of there, post haste.
Instead of immediately fixing their boat, and informing the proper authorities of the dead body on board, the heroes venture onto the island to bury the corpse before it starts stinking up the joint. There they discover Silka (Tereza Srbova). At first it appears that she has been traumatized in some way, and Rachel, Ken, and Marco take her in. Through a combination of spookiness, her inability to answer any questions or provide any useful information, and the hypnotic sound of her singing voice, Silka seduces the men. Ken even goes so far as to broach the subject of a three-way with Rachel, Silka, and himself. You know she’s up to no good, but you’re not entirely sure in what capacity. Is she human and part of some plot, or is she supernatural in nature, part of the mystery of the island? The ambiguity of her motivation unfolding is another layer that keeps you engaged in the film.
Divisions quickly form in the group, hidden relationship tensions bubble up to the surface, and Rachel, Ken, and Marco, all have horrific visions of violence and murder. Things get to the point where they are unable to discern what is real and what is not, as if they’re having a collective hallucination. Disembodied voices call out to them from the deserted wilderness, bonds of trust are stretched to the limit, and Silka becomes more and more sinister as everyone falls into a nightmarish rabbit hole.
For a short time near the end Siren flirts with repetitiveness, and stalls out a bit just before the climax. Hull and his co-writer Geoffrey Gunn stretch out the disembodied voice in the woods bit, desperately trying to extend the run time, which still only just reaches 80 minutes. This extension isn’t even necessary, since there is definitely room for more background on the relationship between Rachel and the two men in her life, and that would have both helped the story, giving you more character to latch onto, and would have filled up otherwise empty space.
This lack of compelling characters is the biggest flaw in Siren. The plot is interesting enough to hook you and carry the film for a while, but it can only do so much. While still a respectable horror movie, if a little bit more time had been spent on developing the personalities and relationships of the characters, Siren could have been something that holds up over time, instead of a film you’ll watch once, enjoy well enough, and never need to think of again.
The DVD doesn’t come with much. There is a trailer gallery, and a ten-minute collection of deleted material that are really brief extensions of existing scenes rather than proper deleted scenes.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/139089-siren/