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Movie REVIEW: Heed the call of “SIREN”

Thursday, January 31, 2019 | Review

SIREN (2016)
Starring Chase Williamson, Hannah Fierman, Justin Welborn
Directed by Gregg Bishop
Written by Ben Collins & Luke Piotrowski
Chiller Films Distribution

Arguably the best of the shorts offered in the “found footage” V/H/S trilogy (V/H/S 2012, V/H/S 2 2013 & V/H/S: Viral 2014) was “Amateur Night,” the first short film in the premiere movie. Featuring a trio of horny young men who plan on clandestinely filming their evening’s sexual conquest (through the use of a hidden camera) of the taciturn and somewhat strange girl Lily who they meet in a bar, only to have events go…awry…this was a solid and enjoyable monster romp, the cinematic equivalent of some story from Warren Publishing’s old horror comics magazine CREEPY. In this day and age, of course, nothing succeeds like excess and so the short was used as a jumping-off point for the full-length, non-camcordered SIREN.

“While a bit clunky, it’s a fine comic-book horror film that succeeds…at feeling resonant with classic folklore.”

In the film, Jonah (Chase Williamson)’s bachelor party, organized by his irresponsible brother Mac (Michael Aaron Milligan), ends up lured to an isolated mansion rumored to host a “floating club.” There, having downed some shrooms, they meet the gregarious and sardonic Mr. Nyx (Justin Welborn), the club’s proprietor, who promises Jonah a singular (yet “non-cheating”) experience, the seemingly innocuous price for which will be paid by his three friends. But after the groom-to-be experiences the erotic effects of a song sung by a beautiful, naked girl (Hannah Fierman) kept behind peepshow glass in a locked room, he becomes convinced she is held as a sex slave and rescues her, only to discover the cost of his mistake…

A lot of credit should be given to Hannah Fierman who really sells Lily as something otherworldy.

Honestly, I started out expecting to dislike this film and found myself won over. Yes, it doesn’t have the concision and weird punch of “Amateur Night” but — much like 2017’s TERRIFIER — it also doesn’t attempt to just stretch its original short film concept to fill the full-length. Instead, it expands somewhat on Lily’s mysterious origins and identity (I had labeled her V/H/S/ appearance as something like a “Harpy,” but here she’s recast as ostensibly a succubus — or “The Lilith” as the film has it) in order to create a plot that will drive the narrative forward. A lot of credit should be given to Fierman whose odd look (large-eyed, twitchy) and alien presence really sells Lily as something otherworldy, while also being weirdly attractive (even in monster form, which visually seems to owe something to Karen Black’s final visage in 1975’S TRILOGY OF TERROR) even though she spends a good portion of the film naked and covered in blood. Justin Welborn has a lot of fun as the mordant, Mephistopholian Mr. Nyx, who isn’t as in control as he’d like to have everyone believe. The film stays just this side of devolving into boring “action horror” moves (always a danger in modern monster movies, see the later JEEPER’S CREEPERS), there’s a nicely done assault on a diner set piece with “muffled sound,” and even a few more surprises. Sure, having a sexually aggressive creature as your lead means that something like the graveyard “pegging” scene is almost inescapable (as mere demonic sex by itself is hard to sell to a general audience as “disturbing”) but I appreciated the film’s overall ambition. While a bit clunky, it’s a fine comic-book horror film that succeeds, in the final scene, at feeling resonant with classic folklore. Check it out if you feel so inclined.

Shawn Garrett
Shawn M. Garrett is the co-editor of PSEUDOPOD, the premiere horror fiction podcast, and is either the dumbest smart man or the smartest dumb man you ever met. Thanks to a youth spent in the company of Richard Matheson, Vincent Price, Carl Kolchak & Jupiter Jones, he has pursued a life-long interest in the thrilling, the horrific and the mysterious – be it in print, film, art or audio. He has worked as a sewerage groundskeeper, audio transcription editor, pornography enabler, insurance letter writer – he was once paid by Marvel Comics to pastiche the voice of Stan Lee in promotional materials and he spends his days converting old pulp fiction into digital form for minimal pay. He now lives near the ocean in a small metal box and he hopes that becoming a Yuggothian brain-in-a-jar is a viable future, as there is NO WAY he will ever read all the books he has on his lists, or listen to all the music he wants to hear. Everything that he is he owes to his late sister Susan, a shining star in the pre-internet world of fan-fiction, who left this world unexpectedly in 2010. He spends an inordinate amount of time reading, writing and watching movies.