VICIOUSLY SEXY MERMAIDS: EROTIC VIOLENCE IN ‘THE LURE’

Before I dive headfirst into my Weird Boner selection (it’s about mermaids, so “dive”, get it?), I need to begin with my introduction to the phrase “weird boners” itself. I used to co-host a podcast called Grindhouse Messiah with my friend Blaine McLaren on my website, The Farsighted. One of our guests was the lovely Elbee, our beloved head Grump (Editor’s Note: Oh, hush.). On that episode, we discussed one of her favorite movies, 1990’s Singapore Sling. If you’re not familiar Nikos Nikolaidis’s unique film, it features some serious sexiness and some equally serious vomit. It’s not exactly a turn-on, but yet it’s still kinda bonerific. This is where Elbee introduced me to her concept of “weird boners” which this film exemplifies in spades. And, while she further explained that it can arouse in other ways and doesn’t necessarily have to arouse sexually to fit in the category, my choice for this particular film is about murderous mermaids singing a myriad of merry melodies and certainly includes this very basic and primal type of arousal. For my selection today, I present to you 2015’s beautiful, sleazy, and horrific musical from Poland, The Lure.

A modern retelling of The Little Mermaid in many senses, the story is equal parts whimsical and brutal. The oft topless beauties from the sea are as deadly as they are entrancing. Finding themselves as strippers and backup singers at a seedy nightclub, mermaids Silver and Golden soon become the star attraction. While Golden indulges her bloodthirsty side, Silver falls for the band’s bassist. Fellow merperson Triton, who sings for a thrash punk band, meets Golden and tells her that if Silver falls in love but it is unrequited, she will turn to sea foam. However, if Silver chooses to remove her tail, she’ll lose her voice.

After a series of events, Silver chooses to have human legs surgically attached to her, removing her tail and, thus, also her voice. Her beloved bassist loses interest and marries another. Triton informs the sisters that Silver must eat her beloved or she will turn to foam. After being unable to do so, she transforms and it sets Golden on a bloody rampage.

The boner-inducing themes and elements of this film are plentiful, beginning – of course – with the beautiful, seductive mermaids themselves. The actresses who play Silver and Golden are not only beautiful, but have distinct features. Marta Mazurek as Silver, especially, has a unique, even quirky beauty that sets her apart from the traditional “babes” you’d see in Hollywood or beyond. As the simple creature I am, spending large amounts of screen time with little clothing on is certain to pique my interest, as well. There are not only entire scenes where one or both of the mermaids are topless, but an entire musical number where Michal ina Olszańska’s Golden sing completely naked, albeit with a Barbie-esque lack of definition between her legs. Of course, the film is very intentionally playing with and preying on this part of my male brain – clearly with the intent of commenting on the male gaze and objectification of young women. Nonetheless, this is the most obvious reason this film is appropriate for a column such as this, but it’s far from the most powerful or impacting reason.

The film stimulates the senses in many other ways, notably through the soundtrack, the cinematography, the way in which it blends a well known folk tale with a powerful coming-of-age story that wrestles with being an outsider that wants to fit in, and the way it makes brutal violence both empowering and sexy.

The soundtrack itself is one of the best albums released in the past decade. With a blend of pop, alternative, and punk elements, one need not speak the language of the vocal parts (Polish) to truly appreciate the musical’s unique and catchy numbers. The film opens with the aforementioned bassist, Mietek, standing with his band members and playing an acoustic guitar at the banks of the ocean. The mermaid girls swim to the shore and begin to serenade with a captivating siren song asking the band to help them ashore and promising not to eat them. From here, we’re treated to musical number after musical number, varying in style but all having a unique and connected feel that fits the film’s story and flow.

After a couple of short performances from the house band, the first truly big and booming musical number hits as the mermaids are taken to the big city to get their new clothes and take in a bit of what it is to be human. This song, “I Came to the City” is playful and addictive, easy to get stuck in your head for hours. It truly expresses the mood of the mermaids in this early scene, thankful to be experiencing something new, not yet tainted or upset by the world they are entering. Perhaps the most penetrating and hard to erase from one’s mind, at least for me personally, this song has a way of getting planted in your mind for days, even if the language is completely foreign to you, as it is me.

With numerous other great pop, rock, and alternative flavored tracks, the other one that is of particular interest to me in both what it means to the film and how the song hits my particular musical “erogenous zones.” That song is Triton’s band’s “Colors.” Triton’s band is unnamed in the film, but the song is performed by a band called The Abstinents, which make simply be a coincidence, but it rings as an interesting point, being that Triton’s primary purpose in the film is to dissuade Silver’s love of Mietek. The song itself gets to create a harder-edged diversion from the poppier or softer songs surrounding it in the film and also gives us a chance to see and hear a harder-edged side of Golden – well, as a performer at least, as she’s already killed in the film.

Moreover, for me personally, the song hits all the right spots: it has a thrash’s feel, some unique instrumentation, and feels distinctly punk rock. While my musical tastes are broad, there’s a good portion of me that will always remain rooted in punk rock, from the DIY aesthetic to the nonconformist attitude to the tunes to the fashion, even. I’m not exactly a plaid pants and Doc Martens guy in how I look or dress these days, but there will always be a red mohawk like the one I had a few different times in college that now resides in my very soul.

The film is extremely thoughtful and stimulating in how it blends the Hans Christian Anderson tale that everyone from your grandma to Disney has retold and shared for generations with a truly interesting and dark coming-of-age story of two young outsiders coming to terms with their place in a new world. While this is far from the first dark take on the story, it uniquely takes on the subtle and not-so-subtle nuances of a story of young immigrants coming to a new place only to be used, misunderstood, and pushed into decisions that their naïveté fuels into devastating places. It even takes great pains to show that those who are mistreating and using the young newcomers are victims of society in many ways themselves, from drug-fueled depravity and rash decisions of their own.

The young mermaids are peddled as sex objects, much in the way that many unknowing young women are. When they are cognizant of their sexuality and sexual power, they don’t see how dangerous a position they are in. Many correlations can be drawn between their journey and the journeys or young people who are trafficked in many countries around the world. The writer and director even acknowledged that these correlations were no mere coincidence. In other words, this story is familiar for more reason than just the fairy tale it references and builds upon.

The most weird boner-inducing element of the film is how the moments of violent ferocity are somehow some of the most sexy and empowering, while also gritty and dark. What makes this particularly intriguing to me, as the viewer, is that I find these moments visually and mentally stimulating despite little to no correlation with this type of arousal in my own life. With the hopes of avoiding too much in-depth discussion of my sexual proclivities, violence is 100% left out of my sexual fantasies. While many are into consensual simulated violence of varying degrees in their bedroom habits, I am not personally – so the way in which the more brutal moments of Silver and/or Golden violent take charge of their situation can be not just empowering but also sexy is something that causes me some introspection and thought.

Perhaps it’s less about the violence and more about the characters’ agency – refusing to simply be put upon by this world anymore. And, honestly, what is sexier than taking your life into your own hands and changing your situation?

There are so many more levels of depth in the themes and plot points tackled within this film, so it’s not difficult to see why it is a physically, mentally, and emotionally stimulating film for me. And perhaps, it can offer you a bit of a “weird boner” too.

Eager for more Weird Boners? Check out this look at the scary side of reproduction in the notorious scifi/horror classic Species!