Sunday, March 22, 2015

Killer Mermaid - Movie Review

Killer Mermaid
(Originally titled Mamula, also branded as Nymph for overseas release)
Directed by Milan Todorovic

Just in case you were laboring under the delusion that Amanda and I only watch seriously serious horror movies, I've got a delicious, fresh-caught review for you today!

I, for one, believe that in order to know what is truly good and truly bad, you have to sample the whole gamut.  For horror movies, this means exploring outside the bounds of your conventionally passable horror movies like Paranomal Whatistface, and watch things like Nosferatu and Mansquito back to back.  Therefore, I LOVE ME a good SyFy Original.

The best thing about SyFy Original-type movies is that they're a neat showcase of green directors learning how to find their ass with both hands, and over-the-top monster-movie insanity.  I've rarely met a SyFy original that took itself too seriously, and there's a comfort in that.  I don't need everything I watch to be gritty, serious, and compelling.  Sometimes I really like to sit back, munch popcorn, and laugh as robot-Hitler has a hard time flying his spaceship to the Falkland Islands.  Getting familiar with how something is done badly then helps with knowing when something is done goodly.

Now, here's your buried lead!  Killer Mermaid aka Nymph aka Mamula is AWESOME.

I decided to watch Killer Mermaid entirely because of it's obvious value-proposition: Killer Mermaids.  And that is essentially what you get.  You've already seen the bones of this movie a hundred times. The plot is the same, the script is copied and pasted from a secret database in SyFy's headquarters (with a couple exceptions), and all the action goes down by the book.

What makes Killer Mermaid a treat, though, is how astoundingly GOOD some of it is.  It includes remarkable acting, jaw-droppingly gorgeous cinematography, and a few moments where the script shines through as something poetic and marvelous.

It's so Pretty!

Killer Mermaid was shot on location in Montenegro.  In case you're not aware, Montenegro is beautiful.  And the cinematographer, Dimitrije Jokovic, makes sure you know this is the loveliest place in the world.  Bright, sunny Mediterranean seas, soft-lit nighttime parties, Instagram-worthy sunset escapades.  Over and over again, I was struck with how Killer Mermaid just looks so damn pretty!

Of course, the second half of the movie is all about hand-held shaky cam and darkness lit with flashlights, but there are still bits where the cinematographer manages to make something that could look cheap look rich instead.  Also, there were several shots that I'm pretty positive were taken on GoPros and I'm still mulling over how I feel about it.

Those people are so Pretty!

This movie is so glamorous, you guys. This isn't just a feature of location-based establishing shots, it's also a matter of how flawless and glam the characters are.  They're ridiculously hot.  I mean... between the luxe locations and how fab the characters are, this movie ends up looking like Conde Nast Traveller: The Horror Movie.

But, wait!  They're also amazing actors.

Double-take.  Yeah, through sheer force of acting, the cast takes characters that might be bland and makes them subtle, human, and fascinating.  I honestly was a little disappointed when they got around to being killed by the mermaid because I was really engaged in the interpersonal drama of their lives.  

Which led me to a super-sad thought:  How in the hell are Americans doing it so wrong?  The people in this low-buidget Serbian monster-movie are both more gorgeous and far better actors than those in the highest-grossing American flicks.  What the hell, Twilight?  What the hell, Avengers?  (dodges bricks)

But in seriousness, this unserious movie packs in a huge amount of character and personal drama through the magic of actors doing their jobs.

For example, the final girl, Kelly, is deathly afraid of water after watching her brother drown as a child.  She took swimming lessons but hates the possibility of getting in the water.  This facet of Kelly's personality is brought up again and again, even when it's inconvenient.  This is not the "Yeah.. sharks killed my family," that is stated and then never cashed-in on.  This is a real feature of Kelly's character that doesn't just go away for the sake of convenient pacing.  

Further, because the movie is so consistent about this, it makes Kelly's act of bravery near the end deeply genuine.  What should be a simple matter is transformed into heroism.  And that's really tasty.

What about that mermaid, tho?  

Pretty good, I say.  It's a mixture of obvious cg and practical effects.  While the cg looks like what you'd see on a SyFy original, the make-up effects are actually pretty good.  The mermaid oscillates between total babedom and super-ugly-monsterdom, but that's to be expected.  Other reviews complain that there's not enough mermaid in this movie and they are dumb.  There is just the right amount of mermaid in this movie.  

The thing that impressed me the most was one shot of the monster-mermaid swimming underwater, where air bubbles are streaming out of her mouth.  This was neat because, Miroslav Lakobrija, the designer in charge of creature effects, apparently took the time to make an appliance that didn't just look good underwater, but also released air in a realistic way instead of through leaky seams in the neck or not at all.


But really, aside from how pretty the movie is, and how good the acting is, what you really should come for is the comforting snuggle it provides.  It's got everything you want and need in a killer mermaid movie.  It's got a grizzled old fisherman who quotes Homer.  It's got a spooky abandoned fort atop a lonesome island.  It's got dudes stumbling toward their deaths in a mermaid-induced trance.  It's got a hot mermaid that turns into an ugly mermaid.  It's got a dorky, spoopy theme that sounds like the whistle from The Hunger Games had a baby with the theme of The X-Files. It's got love stories and boobs and people jumping through the air with tridents while screaming.

And best of all.... it sets itself up perfectly for the sequel!!!!  

Killer Mermaid II:  Sisterhood.



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