THE LURE works on a few different levels. On one hand, it’s a sexy Polish horror musical about savage mermaid sisters trying to eat people. (Everybody who’s into that already has their ticket.) But dig a bit deeper and The Lure is what I wish films were more often allowed to be. Agnieszka Smoczyska’s debut is original and beautiful, and it showcases powerful, charismatic women.
The story is built around the taming—and subsequent stardom—of two mermaids, Srebrna (Marta Mazurek) and Zlota (Michalina Olszanska). Whether or not they’re trying to eat Mietek (Jakub Gierszal) when a small troupe of musicians discover them is up for debate, but the group takes the girls in, and they all form a weird, exploitative family unit. Since the musicians already work in a nightclub, the mermaids are given a crash course in singing and stripping. The club’s setting allows The Lure to flaunt nudity, bizarre sexual situations, and catchy Polish new-wave dance numbers (the songs were written by real-life sister songwriters Barbara and Zuzanna Wroska of the Polish band Ballady i Romanse, with whom I am now completely obsessed), all while remaining grounded in at least a kind of reality. It’s fantastic, but relatable.
Since overly simplistic, surface-level methods of viewing women are unfortunately a cinematic norm, films like The Lure don’t come along as often as we deserve. It reminds me of 2000’s much-beloved cult werewolf movie Ginger Snaps, which was also sold on midriffs and bite marks, but snuck in a tragic story of sisterly love that resonated with women audiences. The lures of The Lure are its attractive leads, its cool (sometimes illicit) tail sex stuff, and a promise of violence—but there’s much more worth seeing.