JANUARY 17, 2015
Well if they had kept the original title of Nymph (Spanish: Mamula), maybe I wouldn't have been as surprised, but when I sat down with something called Killer Mermaid I was expecting a B-movie horror-comedy, possibly from the Asylum (one of their non-mockbuster entries, which are admittedly usually better than the "let's cash in" stuff). So when I realized it was actually a slasher (a minor whodunit one at that) I was fairly delighted, and it more or less made up for the movie's many shortcomings in my eyes, allowing me to enjoy it far more than I was expecting. Not top 10 (or 20) material*, but it's not like new slashers are plentiful these days, so I'll take what I can get as long as it's not total garbage.
Another surprise was that it kind of reminded me of Anthropophagus, as it involved a group of pals going to an isolated seaside area in Europe and getting picked off one by one (Anthropophagus was shot somewhere in Italy; this was just across the Adriatic Sea in Montenegró). Except instead of a mutant cannibal dude, our killer is a mysterious fisherman who is obviously finding human chum to serve the titular mermaid, who is safely locked up in a well. When I say whodunit I mean they attempt to hide who it is by just showing his feet or whatever for the first few kills, but it's kind of obvious who it is and unlike true mystery slashers it's not like we are suspecting any of our main heroes. There's the possibility one of them is working with the old fisherman guy, I suppose, but that doesn't happen - it's pretty straightforward.
The only other reason to hide his identity is that there's another old fisherman type, played by the awesome Franco Nero, and I guess maybe we should be thinking it's him. But I don't believe in a world that would deny us the possibility of Franco goddamn Nero fighting a mermaid, so I never really believed it was him. It's a shame they put the effort into the minor mystery; it keeps Nero on the sidelines for too much of the movie, allowing him to be a suspect rather than just letting him be a Quint-like hero all along. Our heroine is Kristina Klebe, who is charming and lovely, but her character's generic tragic backstory of why she doesn't like the water pales in comparison to Nero's own tortured past.
See, if you know your mermaid/nymph lore, you'd know that they sang men to their deaths, and that's what happened to Nero's crew long ago. He's the lone survivor and vows to kill her, but he's still susceptible to being drawn in by her song - which is how Klebe's male pals get them into trouble in the first place and then also end up dead (the writers need to get a touch more creative to get her female pals offed). It's a fun little device for a body count movie, because the women can't even HEAR the song and thus just get confused while the males literally walk into their deaths, the sort of thing that characters (both sexes) have been accused of in slasher movies for the past 5 decades. "Don't go in there!" "Don't go up there!" etc - it's a different story when they're kind of being hypnotized.
And it hits the beats of a typical slasher flick; a random couple is killed at the beginning of the movie, and another random guy is killed at the end of act 1, just to make sure we remember what kind of movie it is. Our group is comprised of old pals and a newcomer, and Nero fills in the "Don't go there!" stuff. But, you know, one of the villains is a goddamn mermaid, and eventually it has to be more of a monster movie. Here's where it becomes less interesting to me; not only is it obvious how it will turn out (though the sequel set up is inspired, and I truly hope it comes to pass as promised) but the FX on the mermaid aren't the best in the world, so there's little excitement for my eyes as I watch another flurry of pixels race across the screen. Even if the human killer's identity wasn't a surprise, it's still vastly more enjoyable to watch him do his thing, simply because a human being is the best practical effect of all. To be fair, the mermaid fin and stuff looks fine when she's not really doing much, but as soon as she springs into action, CGI non-wizards make their presence known.
Equally ho-hum is the obligatory human drama, involving Klebe's best friend sleeping with their male pal, even though he's engaged to another lady. He also can't stand the local handsome laidback guy who joins them on their excursion, for MORE tension that I guess to some folks is better than simply having our heroes like each other and enjoy each others' company. It's gotten to the point where I shouldn't even bring it up anymore; I guess this is just the way it's going to be in our modern slashers, just like I guess I'll always prefer the older ones because I like liking my characters and would rather see the time before they start getting killed spent on them having fun instead of bickering or taking one another aside to chew them out for some sort of infidelity.
My one other beef is a minor one, but it was really jarring. In the film's closing moments, a hero swings a big weapon toward camera/a person he intends to kill. It's nothing new; we know how it plays out - just as the weapon connects we will cut to black, maybe play a sound effect, and then roll credits. But here, they more or less do that - but then randomly cut in a shot of the weapon hitting the guy's head for a second before going to credits. Not only is it terrible editing, but it's betraying a perfectly good tradition without much of a payoff. If you're gonna do that, you have to make it glorious! This isn't even the movie's goriest kill or anything; it feels more like they had it leftover from a different ending and stuck it in real quick to get their money's worth.
Otherwise, if you're as slasher starved as me, you should enjoy it. Of course, maybe if you're going in knowing it's a slasher it might lose some of its appeal, and for that I apologize, but I had to write something! I couldn't spend 6-7 paragraphs pretending it was a junky mermaid movie just for YOUR benefit, could I? But while we're on the subject of beefing the word count, I'd like to point out that this is from the team that brought us Apocalypse of the Dead, which also had Klebe teamed up with a genre fave (Ken Foree), but wasn't nearly as successful (though it's watchable, so it's better than a lot of modern indie zombie movies). At the end of that review I said "Maybe they'll get me on the next one", and they did! I run into that sort of thing a lot in old reviews, where I saw some promise in the movie and hoped that the filmmakers' followup would be an improvement, but 99% of the time I forgot to actually check on such things. I chalk it up to volume; I can't quite recall who directed 2500 movies, let alone cross reference it with stuff I see 5-6 years later. I only thought to check this one because I had the thought "Wasn't Klebe in another movie made by guys with hard to pronounce names?" and went back to see if it was the same team. So grats to them for improving! I'll try my best to remember your names for the next one, but please bring Klebe along to make it easier for me, thanks.
What say you?
*I probably shouldn't say stuff like that in January. For all I know it'll be in my top 5. So far it's the 2nd best horror movie of the year after Woman In Black 2!