In Movies, Reviews by James CalkinsLeave a Comment

Siren is a micro-budget drama with horror/suspense elements, made by first time writer/director Jesse Peyronel. The film follows a mysterious woman named Leigh, played confidently by Vinessa Shaw, who I loved in The Hills Have Eyes remake, which I did not love. Leigh lives alone in a big house in the woods, and spends most of her time doing totally normally things like listening to really old music, staring at tiny frogs, setting things on fire in huge metal trash cans, and of course, drawing her own blood with a syringe the size of those hilarious jumbo pencils that are just for giggles, cause they’re way too big to write with. Remember those? Those’re a hoot, right?

I wouldn’t say Siren breaks any new ground, but it does trod on old ground in an interesting way, which is usually all we can hope for in a film these days. But if we’re honest we generally settle for far less. I’m looking at you, Jurassic World (Chris Pratt, if you read this, it wasn’t you. I promise. You’re awesome, man. I love you… Totally in like a bromancey, platonic way. Mouse Rat rules!). Moving on.

Siren opens with beautiful shots of a forest, and a not-so-beautiful, kind of cheesy, voice-over informing the viewer (and perhaps someone else) that once upon a time there was a girl, “a special, valuable, dangerous girl; a golden goose with bite,” who is hiding, and who they (whoever ‘they’ are) need to find. The voice also gives us some immediate foreshadowing that the title of the movie wasn’t just chosen, haphazardly, out of an upturned old-timey top hat, when it informs, “you’re gonna love her. Everyone does.” Cause she’s a siren! Get it? Well, kind of.

See, there’s something funky about Leigh. It’s not her smell, mind you… Well, it quite literally is her smell, but not in the first way you would normally understand the word ‘funky,’ or even the second way (thanks a lot Marky Mark!). Whenever a man gets within sniffing distance of her they go nuts. And ‘nuts’ was a word I chose on purpose since it means ‘crazy’ and also could be a reference to… well, you know. A man will think he’s in love with her, but really, he just wants to “get it on.” So, Discovery-Channel-grade love, but love, nonetheless. And anyway, it’s not really her they’re seeing, because her, eh… condition causes men to see not her but the woman of their dreams. For instance, Han Solo would see Princess Leia. Chewbacca would see Princess Leia. Heck, even Luke would see Princes Leia! Come on! Cut the guy a little slack. He didn’t know…

Siren plays on the concept of Leigh as a modern-day siren, but she’s nothing like the sirens of legend, luring hapless sailors to their untimely demise for the hell of it. No, Leigh is a kinder, gentler siren who has all but isolated herself from society so as to not ruin the lives of everyone around her. Her elaborate security system is as much to prevent men from getting close enough to fall under her spell as it is to protect her.

Protect her from who, you might ask?

Well, from a nefarious organization who uses her blood to make a really effective perfume, that’s who! Personally, I thought it was a nice touch to name the organization Circe, after the Greek goddess who was affiliated with the dark arts and what not. I won’t say any more about these guys or the plot, but before we get to the conclusion here, there’s one more player in this story… Guy (Rob Kazinsky) is a mysterious drifter with mad security-system-fixing skills (and butt-kicking-skills), and who is strangely unaffected by Leigh’s ability/curse. Will he prove friend or foe? That’s one of those, “buy-a-ticket” questions, pal.

Overall, I felt the film moved maybe just a bit too slow (like this review), with a few scenes being overly long, but there’s a lot to like with Siren, and I have to give it to writer/director Jesse Peyronel. I would’ve never guessed this was his first stab at a feature. The story flowed very well, had just enough levity (the drunk Leigh scene was really enjoyable), what I would call “good” cinematography (because I am not a cinematographer), and a great score, courtesy of Martin Noble and Abigail Fay, that kept the mood somber with a hint of foreboding.

One last high point was the film’s mostly subtle use of foreshadowing. It’s true that a few instances were a bit forced, (“aren’t these like totally the freshest thing you’re ever smelted?” or something like that) but overall Peyronel very deftly dropped little hints here and there, introducing small details which would eventually pay off, and some very, very well. Bravo! Listen folks, if you want my opinion, which you just might if you’re still reading this, I think there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Siren. It is (mostly) well-acted, has a beautiful and moody soundtrack, and a truly interesting story to boot. Greatest of all, to the best of my knowledge Peyronel wasn’t trying to preach with this film. There’s a brief hint that animal testing is something the director dislikes, but who does like it?

Siren is not a thrill-a-minute summer blockbuster, but it’s also not a paint-by-numbers, formulaic Hollywood studio film. Peyronel had a story to tell and he told it well, and on a micro-budget! That’s not easily done. Or so I hear. I mean, I’ve heard that before somewhere, I think. It seems true, doesn’t it? I’m just gonna Google it really quick… Let’s just… Oh yeah, there it is. Turns out I was right, after all.

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