By JAMES TUCKER
Starring: Hannah Fierman, Chase Williamson, Justin Welborn
Directed by Gregg Bishop
Written by David Bruckner, Luke Piotrowski, Ben Collins, Nicholas Tecosky
Produced by Blue Falcon Productions, Chiller Films
We’re on our last day of Netflix week, and I may have just saved the best for last.
SIREN follows Jonah (Chase Williamson), his brother Mac (Michael Aaron Milligan), and his two friends Rand and Elliot (Hayes Mercure and Randy McDowell) as they plan a wild evening for Jonah’s bachelor party. Jonah is just fine staying with something tame; he just wants to be home with his wife and he’s looking forward to spending the rest of his life with her. But Mac has other ideas, and on the advice of a strange man who looks like an NPC from Red Dead Redemption, takes the gang to an underground club set in what looks like the Hotel California. There’s some truly shady shit going on here, from the women onstage forced to perform strange acts to the club owner Mr. Nyx (Justin Welborn) who accepts memories as a form of payment. But after the men pay Needful Things style for their night out, Jonah gets locked in a room with Lily, the titular SIREN played wonderfully, as always, by Hannah Fierman, and notices that (surprise surprise) she may be being kept there against her will. Jonah and the gang make a bid to free her, and well… that’s where things go off the rails.
“SIREN is a Creature Feature that takes the original premise and goes batshit with it; it’s more than worth your time.”
First off, I just want to give this film a ton of credit for not only expanding on the premise of the previous short film, but maximizing the potential of the feature length and squeezing all kinds of crazy shit in here. In this film alone, there are KKK-style robed cultists, goons ripped out of the Welcome to the Game series, leeches that steal memories, ghosts you can pay to talk to, a torture sequence, a “satanic” summoning (or it’s aftermath, at any rate), and a dick dismemberment. Yeah, you read that right. And the central premise of the film is very different as well; while the short film focused on predatory frat bros looking to prey on drunk women and make some illegal porn, THIS film focuses on the world of sex trafficking. In the opening sequence, Mr. Nyx finds the little monster girl and imprisons her (not a spoiler, since it’s the first five minutes), and then makes a business out of exploiting her and forcing her to perform sex acts for his benefit. When we meet Nyx we’re inclined to believe he’s a priest, as he’s been brought in by the cops to investigate the occult happening that opens the movie; he frequently tries to posit himself as the good guy, the one keeping a monster from running amok, even making a habit of trying to capture her in the church. Perhaps this is a comment on the nature of this particular type of predator, a criticism of the catholic church, or both; either way, Nyx does not succeed in casting himself as anything more than a manipulative monster, far more terrifying than Lily.
For most of the film, you root for her as she slices and dices her way through her former captors, and I think the film’s anti-trafficking stance is, for the most part, meant to be its thesis. This messaging gets a bit muddled, however, when Lily turns and similarly preys on Jonah. There is a particular scene in here that mixes the film’s messaging a bit and… well, you’ll know it when you see it. For the most part, I’m inclined to read it as the film taking Lily’s characteristic fixation on the “good guys” in these films to the most horrifying place possible, something in line with the character of this monster figure even if may be out of line with the film’s overall tone and theme. Or perhaps it’s more meant to be a reflection of the culpability Jonah had in her suffering; he still entered her room looking to exploit her, to get some kind of gratification from her. Upon entering Nyx’s club and paying their dues, each of Jonah’s friends gets a brand; they are permanently marked by the experience, having given part of themselves (and power over themselves) to Nyx, tainted by what they are culpable in perpetuating. Perhaps the ways in which Jonah is preyed on by Lily are meant to be a similar comeuppance; he may be the protagonist of the film, and the film may portray him in a sympathetic light, but he’s far from the “good guy.”
This movie is insane in all the right ways, and while I’ll stop short of saying movies like this are the reason this column exists, I AM going to say that it hit the mark in every way that counts. I’m giving SIREN an 8 out of 10. This film was batshit, it was creative as all hell, and it brought things to the table I NEVER expected to see. What I expected was an easy-viewing creature feature, and what I got was something that, if it was novelized, would find a home in Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks From Hell imprint. I was glued to the screen for the entirety of the runtime, not wanting to miss a single second.
Okay, I’ll say it. Movies like this are the reason this column exists. SIREN is one of the best sleeper hits that Netflix has on site. Give it a watch when you get the chance; this one is well worth your time.