Reviews: Siren

Siren hits shelves on August 18th. Here's our early review.


"Yo! Check out my hoody!"
Siren, the debut feature of writer-director Jesse Peyronel, is a science fiction thriller which was made in 2013 but sat on the shelf until recently and with good reason.  Featuring Vinessa Shaw (best remembered as the prostitute from Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut) as a scientist living in seclusion due to a mysterious pheromone she emits which turn male passerby into ravenous sexual predators, it’s a film with an intriguing premise that unfortunately has too many additional plot threads which don’t add up and do more harm than good when they pad the film’s running time.  

The first hour works beautifully with simplicity, leaving the viewer scrambling to connect the dots.  But once we’ve figured out the gist of the story, it falters and clich├ęd thriller elements such as a covert military operation intent on exploiting Shaw’s inexplicable condition as well as an underdeveloped thread involving a necklace with secret powers are unconvincingly shoehorned into the film, deflating whatever dramatic power Siren was building towards.  In other words, it begins strong before squandering its strength in the second half by trying to do too much for little avail.

Acting overall is generally good although Shaw isn’t entirely convincing as a scientist.  Robert Kazinsky from Pacific Rim makes an alright drifter devoid of his sense of smell turned protector of Shaw even if he too closely resembles Kirk Cameron for comfort.  The soundtrack couldn’t help but remind me of Sigur Ros’ Angels of the Universe with its ethereal strings and distant vocals.  It’s disappointing that Siren does have some great visual ideas in it that never really coalesce, including a recurring, startling motif of blood seen from a cellular microscopic level which is both lovely and unsettling to behold.  Eerie scenes of zombified men stopping dead in the tracks possessed by Shaw’s pheromones have a haunting quality to them and reminded me of the strange followers in Richard Kelly’s The Box.  To combat the dangerous and unwanted male attention which comes to Shaw’s doorstep, she’s rigged her isolated homestead with electrified fences and security cameras, her house decorated at random with CRT monitors resembling the now obsolete Vectrex videogame system.  Scenes like these have an abstract power to them at first glance until the logic behind them is explained away. 


"This might be the perfect concoction
to get his movie right!"
For much of Siren, the intrigue stems from the mystery where we get a lot of scenery but not many answers as to what it all means.  Once we find out, it’s a letdown which should be elevating everything that proceeded beforehand instead of negating it.  You could read Siren as an existential metaphor about womanhood in the face of aggressive sexual desire, but the problem is the logic behind the premise doesn’t necessarily work in the world of the movie.  Somewhere in the footage is a much better shorter film that might have actually worked better if we remained in the dark about it.  Like the unsuspecting men in Siren, we’re drawn into the film’s strange allure but ultimately rebel against it once we begin to understand why.   If some of the unnecessary threads were dropped and if we were trusted to connect the dots ourselves, Siren could have been a truly interesting science fiction thriller.  As it is, we’re left with a movie that feels like it’s trying too hard to convey its message.

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SCORE

-Andrew Kotwicki