Women in Horror – The Lure, directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska

The Lure, directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska

Directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska, The Lure (Córki Dancingu) is a musical horror mermaid story, in which two sisters — Silver and Golden — journey out of the ocean to join a disco troupe in 1980s Poland. As they join the cabaret and explore the human world, Silver becomes fascinated with the bassist and begins to fall in love, much to the disdain of Golden, who has more interest in consuming men than loving them.

This is such a wonderfully strange movie. While it hits the same story beats as a more traditional version of “The Little Mermaid,” The Lure expands the story in surprising and beautiful ways. For example, the relationship between the sisters is powerful, as their love for each other is clear even through their disagreements. They hardly speak to each other (or at all) in the presence of humans, but have a secret silent form of communication demonstrated through movement and internal aquatic sounds that illustrates their deeper relationship and desires.

I also can’t help but be delighted by the mermaids’ tales themselves, which are huge and almost ugly in their eel-like weight. At the same time, the tails beautiful in how they curl around the room and drape over the sides of bathtubs. It’s a brilliant decision on the part of the director and crew to go with something beyond the curvaceous, pretty tails seen in most mermaid movies.

The Lure, directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska

The music, too, is something wonderful. Musicals are hit and miss for me, especially when the songs don’t resonate. But most of the music in this is haunting and lovely, reflecting the siren call of the mermaids. Apparently, the actors performed all the songs live on the set, so what we see in the movie was what was recorded that day (whichis something I learned from April Wolfe and Skye Borgman’s great conversation on the Switchblade Sisters podcast).

The Lure, directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska

There is so much that this movie offers — a coming of age story,  a dive into Polish dance clubs in the 80s, sister relationships, and disco music — all centered on a story about mermaids. It’s fantastic.

Note: This movie pairs well with Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant.


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Women in Horror – Short Films: Murder for Dummies (2018) directed by Diona Oku

Murder for Dummies - Diona Oku

Murder for Dummies

Written & Directed By: Diona Oku

Length: 8:43 minutes
Genre: Dark Comedy/Horror

What It’s About: Two high school best friends decide to kill one of their boyfriends.

Why I Like It: Sure it focuses on two self-centered cheerleaders, who are also sometimes ditzy — but you also have two girls who support each other. Plus, the dry wit is fantastic and I love black humor. This one delighted me. I’ve seen it compared to another black comedy that came out recently, Tragedy Girls , which I haven’t seen yet. If these are indeed similar, then that movie just jumped up my list.

Watch It:


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Women in Horror – Bird Box, directed by Susanne Bier

Bird Box directed by Susanne Bier

Directed by Susanne Bier, Bird Box (2018) presents an apocalyptic world in which just the act of seeing the monsters will drive a person to suicide. Blindfolded, a woman takes her two children on an impossible journey downriver to what she hopes will be salvation.

Having read the novel by Josh Malerman a year or so ago, I can say that the movie seems to be a fairly faithful adaptation — presenting a solid thriller with in interesting world building premise. Making the monsters something you can’t even look at is a great way to build tension.

However, I think the most interesting part of this movie is how it addresses motherhood, with Malorie (played by Sandra Bullock) being less than excited about her pregnancy. When the children arrive, she is not the warm, gentle presence normally portrayed by movie mothers. She’s harsh, hard, and bent on survival — to the point that she doesn’t even give the children proper names. Her behavior draws into question the thin line between hard love and abuse. The fact that Malorie mentions her father having been abusive makes this especially interesting. How much of her behavior is her repeating her own past and how much is due to the world in which she now lives?

By contrast, Tom (played by Trevante Rhodes), having become a father figure as a result of the circumstances of this apocalypse, provides the children with the compassion and kindness denied by Malorie. He offers the children a softer side, offing stories and hope for the future — one of the few areas of disagreement between the two.

The overall apocalyptic story aside, it was this dynamic of shifting the perspective on what motherhood and fatherhood mean that held my interest through the movie.

Closing out, I suppose I have to talk about the memes surrounding Bird Box, which took over the internet for a period of time. These have both managed to help and hurt the movie — on the one hand increasing interest in the Netflix flick and on the other making it difficult for some to take it seriously. The movie certain seems to loose some of its edge as a thriller when there’s so much humor surrounding it. While this phenomena didn’t much affect my own viewing of the movie (I managed to miss most of it), it’s always fascinating to me how a form of media can get launched into the cultural consciousness in this way.


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Horror Noire: The History of Black Horror

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror

Horror Noire (2018) directed by Xavier Burgin is a phenomenal documentary on the history of Black horror — from the silent film era to the present day, examining the racist underpinnings of early horror and how genre films have evolved over the decades to begin positioning Black characters as heroes.

“We’ve always loved horror. It’s just that horror, unfortunately, hasn’t always loved us,” explains novelist Tananarive Due near the beginning of the doc. This love for horror is present throughout the thoughtful critiques of the genre by filmmakers, writers, actors, and scholars. There’s a feeling of excitement and hope for the future of the genre, as new filmmakers come on the scene with Black protagonists at the forefront.

I loved every moment of this documentary. They analyze some of my favorite genre films, such as Night of the Living Dead (1969), The Craft (1996), and Get Out (2017) and discussions a vast number of movies I haven’t seen but are now on my to-be-watched list. In fact, I now have a long list of movies I need to seek out and watch.

Horror Noire is available for streaming on the Shudder network, which also features a number of the classic films discussed, such as Ganja & Hess (1973), The People Under the Stairs (1999), Tales from the Hood (1995), and others.

You can also check out the Horror Noire syllabus over on Graveyard Shift Sisters, for a quick reference list of movies, nonfiction, fiction, comics, and other works to check out.


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Reading Women in Horror: Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

A group sets out on a journey to the middle of the ocean to film a documentary examining the possible existence of mermaids — something no one on the team believes in. What they discover is so much more horrifying than they expected.

In a way Rolling in the Deep reads like a found footage film, stating from the opening pages that none of the crew or staff who started out on the ship SS Atlantic were ever found. We know from the get-go that something terrible is going to happen — reading the book reveals the how.

The story features a diverse and interesting cast of at least a dozen — between the captain and her deaf first mate, the host and her cameraman, the half a dozen scientists, a troupe of mermaid performers, and the producer of the show. Mira Grant reveals her incredible skill in making these characters feel like people you can care about in an incredibly short timeframe, considering the book is only 120 pages in length. (Well, almost everyone, since I’m pretty sure no one minded much that the producer got his due.) We don’t know everything about each of these people, but we don’t need to. We know that they have pasts and hopes and plans for the future, and it’s enough to make me sad if that future is snuffed out.

I’m not going to tell you what happens at the end, because you should read this book yourself. But I will say this book builds at a perfect pace to a finale that left me with chills. Honestly, I may never swim in the ocean again.

It was revealed in November 2018 that Mary Lambert (Pet Sematary) has signed on to direct the movie adaptation of the book — which is of no surprise. As I was reading, I immediately felt that, with its tight pacing and chilling ending, this was a book destined to be adapted for the screen. I hope it gets made, but we’ll see. Hollywood can be fickle.