Tag Archives: Agnieszka Smoczynska

305. THE LURE (2015)

Córki Dancingu

“Our mermaids don’t look like sweet mermaids from Disney. We wanted to kill Disney.” –Agnieszka Smoczyńska



FEATURING: Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska, Kinga Preis, Jakub Gierszal

PLOT: Two mermaid sisters, Silver and Golden, wash up on the shores of Warsaw. They hook up with a family synth-pop band, joining their act in a seedy nightclub. Their voices bewitch everyone around them, but Golden’s carnivorous appetite and Silver’s infatuation with a young bass player lead to horror and heartbreak.

Still from The Lure (2015)


  • Screenwriter Robert Bolesto was inspired by his friends Zuzia and Basia Wrońska and their childhood growing up around a nightclub in the 1980s. Director Agnieszka Smoczyńska had had a similar childhood experience, and decided to create a horror-fantasy allegory with that setting. The script was initially conceived as a straightforward biography of the sisters, but both the Wrońskas and Smoczyńska felt it was too personal, so the characters were changed to mermaids. Because mermaids are known for singing and the setting was a nightclub, the film easily evolved into a musical.
  • The Wrońska sisters form the Polish-language synth pop band Ballady i Romanse. They composed the music for The Lure. They appear at the end of the film in the wedding scene.
  • Much of the visual style pulls from the art of Aleksandra Waliszewska, who paints twisted, adult fairy tale scenes, as well as photographer Nan Goldin, known for her seedy images of the New York club scene and queer subculture in the 80s.
  • Though it was praised at its Sundance debut, in its native Poland the film received a mixed response. According to Smoczyńska, Poland doesn’t have a tradition of musicals (The Lure has been called Poland’s first musical) or horror. Those elements weren’t advertised at all, so incoming audiences did not realize what they were in for.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Smoczyńsky addresses the reality of mer-people anatomy by showing a mermaid-human transplant. Shot from above, a mermaid lies on ice in a long metal gurney and sings sadly, while a surgeon saws through her torso and then stitches on a pair of human legs (taken from an anonymous woman lying on ice next to her). It is at once clinical, tragic, and sweet, made all the more memorable for being part of a low-key musical number.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Merman punk rocker; breastfeeding mermaids; fish labia

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Though working with some familiar source material, the film manages to feel fresh and strange. The visceral effects and gore matched against the upbeat synth tunes; the fantasy characters in a grimy, all-too-real world; the loss of chronology in the narrative; the sense that nothing is quite what it seems, that there is something under the surface of it all: no single element makes it weird, but rather a host of assorted factors.

Brief musical scene from The Lure

COMMENTS: A simple description of The Lure seems impossible. It’s Continue reading 305. THE LURE (2015)


Yesterday, I only had one screening, of a film that’s already been discussed at this site. But, before I get into that bit of redundancy, I want to give you some advice that may seem obvious in retrospect but is still important to keep in mind: when you’re staying in a hotel in a strange city and you buy a bottle of wine (or in this case of locally produced ice cider) to drink for a nightcap, be sure to remember to purchase a corkscrew as well. Otherwise, you might end up accidentally gashing your finger while trying to pry the cork loose with various sharp objects, like I did. (What finally worked was pushing the cork down into the bottle using my Ego e-cigarette battery—except that after I succeeded the battery was also stuck in the bottle! To reiterate: remember to buy a corkscrew!)

Since I have a short report today, I’ll also fill up space by mentioning that, if you attend a Fantasia screening here in Montreal and you do not have pink or blue cotton-candy hair (women) or a lumberjack beard (men), and/or a sleeve of tattoos (either sex), you may feel like something of an outsider. But everyone here is super-polite, and treat us clean-shaven, untattooed freaks with the same dignity and respect as they do normal people.

The Lure screening was not sold out ahead of time, but the theater was again packed. Director Agnieszka Smoczynska had been scheduled to appear, but had to cancel for personal reasons. She supplied a short video introduction to the film instead, which was charmingly filmed with a couple of young girls in the background, jumping up and down and trying to catch the camera’s attention. She didn’t provide much new information on the film, but she did seem thankful for the opportunity.

Still from The Lure (2016)I encourage you all to read (or re-read) Alex Kittle’s review, since most of what I would have to say about The Lure would be redundant. The overall message of this movie is “never date a bisexual singing stripper killer mermaid, it will end in a heart-rending scene.” You’ve never seen anything quite like it. Because Alex synopsized the plot and themes so well, and because I agree with her assessment that this genre-busting future cult favorite has a real shot at making the List, I’ll just add a few scattered bullet point observations:

  • The mermaid tails here are much longer than what we’re used to seeing, maybe twelve feet altogether. It’s in keeping with the movie’s over-the-top feel: it keeps giving you more than you expect.
  • This is a very sexy movie—Ariel would blush.
  • The idea of sex with a mermaid is kind of disgusting, yet strangely alluring.
  • If the mermaids really are biological sisters, then there’s a hint of incest to go along with the bestiality. Still, the film never feels perverted (kinky, yes).
  • Marta Mazurek (“Silver”) was the lead, and she’s very appealing. I was more impressed with Michalina Olszanska (“Golden”), however, primarily because of the intensity of her stare. When she’s feeling malicious, you actually feel afraid looking into those eyes; when she’s aroused, you feel almost as terrified. Both of these actresses appear in the drama I, Olga Hepnarová, also playing at Fantasia (there, Olsanskaand takes the lead).
  • The musical numbers are mostly disco style. The scene staged in the shopping center was the only one that looks like a song-and-dance production number; most of them are smaller scale, like cabaret acts or music videos.
  • Poland has no tradition of musicals that I’m aware of.
  • Whoever did the subtitles took care to make the song lyrics rhyme in English—not an easy job for the translator, but a detail-oriented touch that’s appreciated.
  • I was a bit baffled by the song that featured the family hooked up to bags of glucose.
  • The Lure features the only musical number I can think of that takes place during a gory surgical operation. Mermaids do not require anesthesia.
  • The audience applauded wildly at the big final scene, indicating just how deeply they had come to identify with these alien sisters.

The Lure is highly recommended and had the audience buzzing, and I would be slightly shocked if it did not land a distribution contract soon.

On to tomorrow, when we’ll be watching a vintage Japanese propaganda cartoon and another oddball horror character story.


The final weekend in March saw a sudden influx of weirdness to the Boston area with the arrival of the 18th annual Boston Underground Film Festival, the region’s primary hub for new independent genre fare. Ever concerned with keeping the 366 Weird Movies community up to date with the latest in the bizarre, I took in a few of the weirder-looking titles (minus the special Belladonna of Sadness screening, which I reported on from Fantastic Fest).


The Lure (dir. Agnieszka Smoczynska)

In her first feature, Agnieszka Smoczynska brings to life a delightfully strange genre mash-up that combines elements of fairy tale, horror, romance, coming-of-age drama,  and dark comedy, played out in catchy new wave musical numbers and set against a slightly surreal Soviet backdrop. With a loose, dreamy narrative structure, the story follows the adventures of mermaid sisters Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska) as they come ashore in Warsaw and establish themselves as a musical act at a seedy nightclub, shacking up with the house band, an eccentric mother/father/son trio. The sweet-natured Silver begins dating the son, a hunky but noncommittal bassist, though Golden warns her against the consequences of falling in love with a human. The sisters experience the ups and downs of life in show business (drugs, sex, betrayal, etc) while also occasionally feeding their lust for human blood.

Yes, The Lure has a lot going on, and yes, it is overly ambiguous at times, but if you aren’t completely entranced by a lush, synth-driven musical about killer mermaids then I don’t know how to help you. The film is at times funny, at others tragic, and frequently strange and viscerally gross. The locations pair dingy interiors and rain-soaked streets with neon lights and sequined costumes, with subtle reminders of the Soviet regime peppered throughout. The soundtrack, composed by Ballady i Romanse (a real-life sister act who partially inspired the film’s premise), is absolutely stellar, emotionally varied but generally sticking to the 80s discotheque vibe. While it offers weirdness in spades with its many genre oscillations, perhaps what is most notable about the film is how it subverts tropes relating to gender and sexuality. Silver and Golden are introduced as the typical seductive sirens many myths associate with mermaids, but their naiveté is soon made clear. They are viewed as sex objects from the beginning, but also treated as children due to their lack of understanding of the human world, a sly commentary on the sexualization of young girls so dominant in the media. A cult-friendly oddity with a feminist slant, The Lure is the first List-worthy release I’ve seen this year.

Chasing Banksy

Chasing Banksy (dir. Frank Henenlotter)

Largely based on a true story, indie horror favorite Frank Henenlotter‘s latest film focuses on Anthony (Anthony Sneed, playing a version of himself), a street artist struggling to make it in New York, who hatches a wild scheme to steal one of the Banksy artworks that popped up in the American South a few years after Hurricane Katrina. He enlists a few artist friends to help him out for a share of the Continue reading REPORT: BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 2016