Being very generous, I’ll figure that there’s maybe eight of you reading this that have never seen V/H/S. Going way out on a limb, I’ll say that of the rest of you, there’s maybe two or three that didn’t find the segment “Amateur Night” to be one of the best of the tales represented, if not indeed the best. Through the found-footage anthology, I felt that it was this story of a night of testosterone-fuelled licentiousness gone horribly awry that made the best use of the format. I also feel that it had both the most cohesive scripting and best visual narrative, with Hannah Fierman’s role as some kind of nether-worldly creature turning the whispered “I like you” from something desirable to something positively terrifying. Now, you Fellow Fans out there certainly don’t have to agree with me — after all, I was a fan of the whole film myself — but this one stood out for me as the most effective.
It’s fortunate, then, for myself and like-minded Fellow Fans, that the writer/director of that particular chapter, David Bruckner, has teamed up with director Gregg Bishop to take the concept beyond a mere vignette into feature-film territory with the upcoming release of SiREN, releasing early in December.
Jonah is a nice guy, getting married to a lovely lady — however, before ties the knot, his brother Mac and close friends Rand and Elliot want to take him out for one last bash — a bachelor party to remember. Mac takes the lead, citing his knowledge of where the hottest places are and the fact that he is the Best Man as his qualifications to organize the soirée.
However, as the “awesome” place that they visit turns out to be a bit less hot than anticipated, Mac takes the advice of a stranger in the bar and convinces the group to follow the man to an “exclusive” locale — one that puts anything else to shame. On a road trip through deserted woods, the quartet find themselves feeling more uncomfortable and suspicious — but soon, they turn into the drive of a stately old mansion, and — following their guide inside — are welcomed into a surreal yet seductively alluring nightclub of sorts. Meeting the proprietor, Mr. Nyx, the young men are taken to the back where they barter (no cash accepted!) a deal for Jonah’s last fling as a “free” man. The-groom-to-be is then taken in the back for a peepshow of sorts, and finds himself sensually overwhelmed at the song of the beautiful girl behind the glass — and not just as an appreciation of musical talent. After the experience, he prepares to leave, but the young woman’s pleas convince him that she’s being held against her will; thus, he executes an impromptu rescue that ends with he and his friends fleeing the premises with “Lily” in the car. There’s more to her than meets the eye, however, and Mr. Nyx and his cronies will certainly not let his “prize attraction” go so easily — but the machinations and cruelties of Nyx are the least of the four young men’s worries, as this particular young woman forms very strong attachments…
When I first heard about this film, I was a bit torn — loving the short as I had because of that otherworldly feel, I worried that the filmmakers might bog this feature down in reality and lose some of that magic. I can safely say that this is not the case — sticking to his guns, Bruckner maintains the universe he created with the V/H/S segment, keeping that dark, almost fairy-tale vibe, creating what appears to be a prequel to “Amateur Night”, showing how “Lily” came to be.
The story introduces us to more fantastical (yet darkly sinister) elements found at Nyx’s establishment, providing a backdrop to the main plot that contains a plethora of ideas for other films. From the typical beginnings of a score of other “guy flicks” to a sex scene that somehow manages to be funny yet horrifying at the same time, to an ending that smacks of the old EC Comics, SiREN proved an entertaining flick, albeit being problematic at times. The acting was well done, with special shout-outs to of course Fierman, with her huge eyes and animalistic yet somehow innocent sexuality displayed through body language and nuance more so than dialogue, and Justin Welborn as Mr. Nyx — he comes across as lecherous and cruel, yet commands a charisma that makes him a very likable asshole. Chase Williamson as Jonah and the others did well with what they had, but there wasn’t really as much development of these characters as I would have liked. Still, against the main plot that was going on, I can see where that would have really been impossible barring a three-hour film. The FX of the film ran the gamut, with some nice, gory practical bits at times, and dodgy CGI in others — this inconsistency wasn’t pronounced enough to ruin the experience — I myself liken it to Harryhausen moments — in the horrific fantasy context of the film, I found it acceptable. However, I can see where this would push some viewers out of the flick.
I’ve typed “fairy-tale” and “fantasy” a time or two, and lest you believe I’ve abandoned horror films and turned to Disney live-action remakes, I want to clarify that while the atmosphere of the film is something akin to dark fantasy (what with winged and tailed demonic lovers flitting about), it’s not a family friendly flick.
The theme of sexuality is very prevalent throughout the film, and poor Fierman spends the whole film nude (although this is alleviated a lot by clever camera angles and blocking). And that one particular sex scene I mentioned — well, that would not be something you’d wanna watch with little Billy or Gramma — the awkwardness would be sublime.
I enjoyed the film, folks; I found it both engaging and entertaining, despite some issues — after all, every film has them, and I certainly think the value of this one outshines any shortcomings that it has.
That’s my two.
Chiller Films will release SiREN in theaters on December 2nd, and on VOD, Digital HD, and DVD on December 6th.