A hard to categorize yet beautiful fantasy horror film, “Mermaid’s Song” is a dark coming-of-age story and a unique take on an age-old folktale.
Stellar acting, interesting metaphors, a great villain and terrific cinematography make this a film worth seeing.
Trying to capitalize on The Little Mermaid story with the tag line: “Her story begins where the fairytale ends” was not to this film’s benefit. I really enjoyed Mermaid’s Song for its own unique, dark and supernatural story — one that could have stood alone. By comparing it as a dark version of what most people think of as a Disney story (even though it is a fairy tale from Hans Christian Anderson) just made viewing it a little confusing when it didn’t need to be.
There is a mix of genres; fantasy, horror, supernatural — but I enjoyed the mash-up and the damp, dusty Depression Era world it was set in.
Synopsis: Mermaid’s Song tells the story of a young girl named Charlotte, and her life after her beautiful mother commits suicide. Set during the Great Depression, Charlotte’s father falls prey to a gangster, to keep his speakeasy afloat when he no longer has his star attraction. Her father George is a weak and pathetic excuse for a man who makes horrendously selfish choices. Despite the ugly home-life around her, we watch Charlotte, who like her mother before her is a mermaid, grow into a young woman who finally realizes the magical and dangerous powers she has.
Director Nicholas Humphries and writing team Bob Woolsey, Meagan Hotz, and Lindsey Mann use The Little Mermaid as an inspiration for the film.
Charlotte’s mother Serena (Natasha Quirke) is the star of a show, where she sings, dances and mesmerizes the local townsfolk who come regularly for the booze and burlesque during the late 1920s Great Depression. She dances with her older daughters, who wear revealing outfits, while husband George collects the money. Being that this is in the back room of their house, it seems our beautiful mermaid did not get hooked by the best of men.
Reminded by a creepy old woman (A grandmother, or Ursula maybe?) with a book of mermaid lore that it is time for her to go back to the sea to restore the balance destroyed when she left her world, Serena chooses to commit suicide.
Without the singing siren, the show deteriorates into a sleazy dance show, with watered-down booze and a father selling his daughters’ sexuality to try to make ends meet. Brendon Taylor plays the impotent and horrible father, George. It is easy to blame him for all the bad things that happen. Why his lovely and sweet mermaid wife went with him to work this awful dance show is beyond me, but she did, and without her it turns into a dirty and decrepit brothel.
The dance show goes on, and the audience gets worse and more debase. In comes local gangster Randall, played terrifically by Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones), and offers the failing business some much needed help — in exchange for taking charge and making it even sleazier that it already is. His performance is one of the best in the film. He is chilling, very believable and as you will see, there is more to him than meets the eye.
The other standout was Katelyn Mager as Charlotte. We watch her grow up with grace in a truly awful place. I loved watching her character grow stronger as she is forced to understand what she is and what she can do.
The production value of this film is terrific. It was believably set in the 1920-30s. The cinematography, costumes and sets took me back to a past time. For all the problems in the story line. and there are a few, this dark drama is so wonderful to watch that I got caught up in the experience and was able to overlook some of the flaws.
The practical effects in Mermaid’s Song were incredibly well done.
There is blood, several serious injuries and of course a mermaid transformation. All this was done skillfully, and I was so impressed with the SFX. I’m always thrilled to see what people can do without computer effects! That’s one of my favorite parts of indie films. The soundtrack was also a driving reason that it is so good. The film not only looked, but sounded vintage — with jazzy songs and under currents of ocean sounds. Most importantly, none of it took me away from the story, the way some soundtracks do.
I am not going to talk about the last half. Either you want to see this by now or not. But horror fans, let me reassure you there is some horror. Mermaid’s Song is a regular folks meet a monster kind of flick. It works because we find ourselves loving the monster, and we only want her to be happy, strong and to save those around her. It has a great ending that satisfied me more than many films this year.