SiREN is an extended version of the best story on the found footage anthology movie VHS, Amateur Night. I have no idea why it is called SiREN rather than just good old fashioned Siren unless the film makers have some investment in a capital letters company – something I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist. Maybe it is called SiREN to sound all modern and iPad-like in keeping with the found footage theme. If so then they’ve got it all wrong because the feature film version of the short abandons the found footage approach which is a blessed relief. Its almost as if they realised it is officially done as a sub-genre: it (kinda) started with The Blair Witch Project seventeen years ago and ended with Blair Witch this year. Let’s move on shall we?
Director Gregg Bishop and writer David Bruckner seem to have. Amateur Night was a fairly simple but very effective little frightener involving a bunch of guys picking up a couple of girls, one of which turns out to be winged and fanged demon. Really there wasn’t much to it other than that. It also it added another dimension by dealing with sexual consent and alcohol which was kind of unpleasant before the siren reveals herself. Bishop and Bruckner could have quite easily expanded that to feature length but instead they change the story quite a lot, adding loads more ideas and characters, the upshot of which is one of the most fun horror movies of 2016.
The main change from the short is that now the guys aren’t just going out on a lad’s bender but it is in fact the main character’s stag party (actually maybe Amateur Night was a stag party but its hard to tell through all the garbled found footageness of it all). This helps set up the dynamic of the four friends and by extension what is at risk for the stag when the night takes a turn for the worse. Unusually for this kind of group in horror movies these four aren’t all dicks. Chase Williamson, from John Dies At The End and Beyond The Gates, as Jonah the stag, is a likeable everyman. Okay so his brother Mac as the best man is a bit of a n idiot but he’s clearly put himself under pressure to give the best stag party he can when he’s pretty incapable of anything very good in life. Jonah’s best friend Rand should obviously been the best man, he’s organised and kind to Jonah, but Mac’s ego is too fragile to cope with that idea. This leads Mac to end up dragging the gang to “the best party ever” (a whorehouse in the middle of a dark forest, hmm…) where everything goes to shit.
Okay so so far so we’ve seen it all before and obviously we’re going to meet the siren of Amateur Night, and the title here, but what makes SiREN the movie more interesting is that the brothel/party house they end up in is more than just a seedy sex den. It seems to have several other stories going on here that we’re not party to but add a richness to the main event that I wasn’t expecting. Each of the various rooms have something outrageous playing out: if the main characters were to go into any of them then we’d have a whole different story going on. The dude who invites them to this place is overheard saying “does that mean I can get her back?” so obviously he has his own plot that we are never are privy to either.
We could easily just had a story about the SiREN eating everyone’s face off but instead we are given a much more interesting plot. The villain who runs this den of iniquity (Justin Welborn) has all kinds of various deal-with-the-devil side projects going on. He also has some bizarre ideas like causing pain to one character and then inserting the memory of that pain into someone else in order to make them suffer instead. He also uses this trick as some kind of interdimensional message service. Its kind of bonkers.
Centre to all this though is the SiREN herself Lily, played by Hannah Fierman. She is a creepy and strangely alluring creation, which as siren is just what she should be. Its never fully explained if she is the same as the sirens of Greek mythology but her songs are haunting and mesmerising and Fierman’s off kilter way of saying “I really like you” makes you want to hug her and run away from her at the same time. We never found out what the ancient Greek Sirens did to the sailors who survived their ships smashing against the rocks in The Odyssey. You do here and its not pretty – keep that tail away from me!
SiRENS is a great bit of macabre entertainment, not scary as such (I don’t think horror always HAS to be scary, do you?) more of a horror action thriller with some rather unsettling moments. It is only let down by its limited budget which occasionally gets in the way of its ideas. Its certainly not let down by the creative team’s imaginations which are firing on all cylinders.