As horror subgenres go, I enjoy a good found-footage film if it’s done right (The Blair Witch Project, Creep, Cannibal Holocaust). Hell, sometimes I enjoy it even more if it’s done wrong (here’s lookin’ at you, Paranormal Activity 4; probably the best $2.50 I ever spent at the Warren Cinemark [RIP]). I find the first installment of the fan favorite V/H/S series among the more enjoyable entries of its kind, so I was excited to dig into SiREN, a feature-length adaptation of the ultra-creepy “Amateur Night” segment. Distributed by Chiller Films (an affiliate of the cable network of the same name) and helmed by V/H/S: Viral director Gregg Bishop, SiREN is slated for a Dec. 6 release on DVD and video on demand, and features Hannah Fierman reprising her original V/H/S role as the titular siren, the relentless Lily.
Douchebag bro Mac (Michael Aaron Milligan) throws a bachelor party for his groom-to-be brother Jonah (played by John Dies At The End’s Chase Williamson), but decides that the usual titty-bar hijinks just aren’t good enough for his mild-mannered-with-a-naughty-streak brother. After an encounter with the odd and menacing Mr. Nyx (Justin Welborn), who promises them the thrill of their lives, the group is thrown headlong into a seedy surreality, with every possible otherworldly fetish made available to them. Among the purveyors of pleasure is one very special creature (Fierman) with a singing voice engineered to further warp a future groom’s mind. At some point the guys decide the sleazy sex club they’ve entered is a trafficking ring and attempt to free the mysterious siren. A few bursts of song later hell freezes over, and suddenly the boys’ night out from Very Bad Things seems like a coked-out episode of Yo Gabba Gabba by comparison. (And it’s all this Mac asshole’s fault for NOT STICKING TO THE PLAN.)
While not a found-footage film in and of itself, SiREN works well as a feature, with plot filler kept to a surprising minimum. Bishop maximizes his use of lighting and sound design to underscore the mounting tension throughout, relying more on technical skill than gore to summon scares. (That said, I still feel obligated to issue a warning: there is a uniquely disturbing–I guess…sex? rape?–scene. Not in that realistic, heartbreakingly fucked-up way such scenes usually are…more in that “what-the-FUCK-did-I-just-watch?!” way. Think Splice, sorta. I’ll leave it at that.) The cast delivers competent performances on all fronts, with über-ham Welborn as the standout, chewing just the right amount of scenery as the menacing Nyx. A good two-thirds of the film has a lurid, grimy sort of Hostel-type aesthetic, but thankfully it adds to the creepy allure, even if you feel like you need a shower when the end credits roll.
If you agree that “Amateur Night” was among V/H/S’ frightening best, SiREN will not disappoint. It’s a bit different than fans of the original segment might expect, but translates well enough to feature length to successfully deliver on the promise shown by its source material.