'Siren': A Decent Little Supernatural Psychological Thriller

A idyllic weekend getaway takes a sinister turn on a mysterious island.


Director: Andrew Hull
Cast: Anna Skellern, Eoin Macken, Tereza Srbova, Anthony Jabre
Distributor: Lionsgate
Rated: R
Release date: 2011-03-22

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.






'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.


Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.