The Polish monster movie / '80s new wave musical / coming-of-age sex-comedy / horror movie The Lure (original title: Córki dancingu, or "Daughters of the Dance Club") is the debut feature of director Agnieszka Smoczyńska. The genre-defying picture tells the story of two mermaids named Golden and Silver who leave the sea to join a low-rent rock band and enter the seedy world of a Warsaw nightclub where they work as backup singers and exotic, non-human strippers. The film, written by screenwriter Robert Bolesto and influenced by Smoczynska's own youth—her mother ran a nightclub like the one depicted—is in part a reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” but with the mythical aquatic sirens envisioned as sexy, vampiric serial killers rather than alluring innocents. The premise and milieu are promising and the two leads have a captivating screen presence. Unfortunately the script and execution are so disorganized, and the music and color pallet so monotonous, the picture becomes tedious well before it reaches its halfway point.
The Lure reels us in with the potential of its ideas and the intentional garishness of its imagery. As the mermaids, Michalina Olszańska and Marta Mazurek are unquestionably beguiling, which is vital since the movie depends on the hypnotic effect the lead actors have on viewers. The first half hour establishes a unique setting and a compelling, unsettling mood. We can feel the dank, heavy, smoke-filled air of the nightclub, and we can almost smell the strange olfactory trail its proprietor follows to the dressing room when the two strange creatures first arrive.
There are many potent themes just waiting to be explored here: societal attitudes and fears around female sexual maturity, the plight of immigrants—especially young girls—the bonds of sisterhood and the challenges of first love. Perhaps there's political commentary lurking around too—if there is, I'm not well versed in all that was happening in Poland during Communism to see it. Similarly, as someone relying on subtitles, I can't fully judge the quality if the lyrics in this musical—they seem banal but a lot can get lost in translation.
is no mistaking the fatal flaws in this screenplay. Plot points are introduced
and then instantly discarded. Seemingly minor characters appear out of nowhere
and go on to affect the story far more than the major characters. Ideas and
motifs are alluded to without proper development. The songs never rise to rock
opera levels of catchiness or memorability. And, most disappointing of all, the
body horror elements lack any real Cronenbergian creepiness; in fact, the gory
details are sometimes laughably silly rather than disturbing. Ultimately, The
Lure fails to come together in a meaningful or satisfying way. It’s a
colorful, sequin-studded shell with nothing inside.