by Rita Aresta
Rule number one: never trust a movie with multiple titles. Dark Sea. Mamula. Nymph. Killer Mermaid. Killer Mermaids. It just doesn’t bode well.
Among popular mystical creatures, mermaids are probably the most neglected in the world of horror films. Films featuring werewolves, vampires or zombies are produced a dime a dozen, but it’s rare for a movie to feature these beautiful sea demons. This is actually a bit strange – the mermaid theme could still yield excellent stories, especially considering it’s an area that hasn’t yet been sucked dry (excuse the vampire pun) and therefore I’d imagine it’d guarantee a greater chance to come up with something truly original. 2016 delivered a reasonably solid movie with Siren. Going back to 2014, Serbian production Killer Mermaid (or all its alternative titles above…), directed by Milan Todorovic, sounded like it could be a good option within the genre; however, watching the first few minutes was more than enough to realise the quality of Killer Mermaid was about to sink irrevocably.
Okay, that arm is a bit weird, but still – that’s not too bad…
The story follows two friends – read: young, pretty American girls whose main purpose is to show themselves off in shorts and bikinis – who go on holiday in the Mediterranean. They meet an old friend of the male variety, while enjoying the fabulous sea and sun; as they reconnect, mostly by getting drunk, they discover feelings they thought long gone, which could cost them their friendship. The real nightmare, however, only happens after they decide to explore the island of Mamula, which, according to a local legend, is cursed. Besides being the site of an old military base, Mamula also keeps a terrible and lethal secret. Soon, the group finds itself in a number of frightening and dangerous situations, and has to join forces to survive the deadly creature – that conveniently seems to only affect men.
Because, y’know, things.
Well, turns out this wasn’t such an interesting mermaid movie after all. Anyone who watched the trailer might even have some level of hope, since the production seemed at least satisfactory, but trust me – there are very few satisfactory things in Killer Mermaid. Overall, it’s just a movie with twitchy, poor direction, moments that are beyond cliché, and not much of a spotlight on what should be the film’s unique selling point: the mermaid. Instead of focusing on it, the story decides to follow a slasher plot with a human killer(!); it’s also quite worrying that five apparently healthy young adults can’t tackle an old man. These (and worst) are the sort of situations that await you in this movie.
If it I try really hard to mention some good aspects of this film (and believe me, they’re far and few), I can say that the photography is wonderful – although I suppose it’d be difficult to mess up with such great landscapes, crystal clear water and even the locations on the island, which are quite interesting. Unfortunately, the director doesn’t seem to be able to use this in his favour. Another aspect that stands out in this sea of clichés (excuse the pun again) is the relationship between the mermaid and the murderer. It’s different from what I was expecting, and it certainly should’ve been better developed – but once again, the director didn’t seem to able to crawl out of the hole he got himself into.
Well, not so pretty now…
It’s impossible to feel any degree of empathy with the ‘victims’ – the plot makes sure their characters are fully destroyed as it goes along. Why spend any time investing in characters betraying each other if this will never be relevant to the story? Is it just so we don’t even get a chance to sympathise with them? Among sequences of rushed events, they don’t seem to remember anything anyway – and the poor audience is left to figure out what’s going on. Oh, and the lead female character also has a water phobia (her brother drowned when she was ten years old, à la Heavy Rain), yet another utter cliché for this movie. Honestly, the mermaid could’ve killed them all and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. I was at least expecting a decent confrontation between the mermaid and the leading lady at the end, but everything just finished rather blandly.
The most obvious issue, however, is the director’s lack of ability to negotiate around his low budget. Deaths, even when violent, are weak and poorly directed; even as a giant hook rips off characters, the actors can only make silly facial expressions, far from the pain they should be feeling; the lack of sound effects during the attacks is also mindboggling. Adding together poor direction, technical failures and pitiful cast performances with forced reactions and terrible English, my only consolation is the knowledge that in a few weeks’ time, I won’t even remember this movie exists.
They could definitely both have fit onto the plank…oh, sorry, wrong one.
Top quote: “From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee; for hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee”. The well-known mermaid-killing prayer.
Rating: A film that deserves to be buried right next to the Titanic.