Forget the Spanish Inquisition; nobody expects a communist-era Polish period piece horror musical about mermaids. I mean, holy fuck. The Lure (2015) is deeply weird and a smidge depraved, but also wildly inventive, vibrant, and unlike anything else. The oddball adventure begins when a pair of mermaids, Golden (Marta Mazurek) and Silver (Michalina Olszańska), are helped ashore by a nightclub house band (Kinga Preis, Andrzej Konopka, and Jakub Gierszał) mesmerized by their siren-like voices. The club’s owner (Zygmunt Malanowicz) sees an opportunity to freak-show them into the band, which turns the group—the Lure—into a pop sensation. But when Silver falls in love with the bass player (Gierszał), she’ll take drastic steps to be with him, which threatens to destroy the band and separate the sisters forever.
The film is Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s first feature, and whoa, what a striking debut, mixing cheesy eighties pop tunes with gory horror tropes and fairy-tale folklore. Packaged like a campy monster movie, it’s actually more of a seriocomic coming-of-age allegory about innocents whose youthful joy suffers a rude awakening when maturity and sex rear their awkward heads. Over that core narrative, the script layers a bizarre veneer of dark fantasy and throwback eighties partying, bursting into song unpredictably to comment on the sisters’ journey. It all seems quite random and absurd, but is also quite personal and heartfelt, evidently a warped-mirror reflection of the director’s childhood. Structurally, it has an unexpected resonance with Boogie Nights, its celebratory, fun first half followed by a tragic turn, the party inevitably ending. It all adds up to a clever, oddly profound, and very specific experience of unforgettable what-the-fuckery.