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When I first received the preview screen or for a new movie admit that I had some trepidation upon reading the synopsis. The film was to review, ‘SiREN’, was about a group of friends heading off for a bachelor party when they encounter in an ancient evil predator released from demonic captivity. This description sounds upsetting me close to a gore fest such as ‘Bordello of Blood.' The trouble with a film such as this is a complete lack of a cohesive plot and absolutely no attention paid to character development. Much to my pleasant surprise after only a couple chapters into the DVD, I found myself enjoying his strong example of an old school horror movie, in particular, a creature feature. I realized I was watching something with a story told through characters that I had a realistic feel to them. Upon closer examination, I began to understand the basis for this unanticipated level of quality. The director, Gregg Bishop has several forays into the horror genre including one with direct relevance to this current film, ‘Dance of the Dead.' The story behind this movie is a high school prom being invaded by zombies. Mayhem at a bachelor party is just another example of a socially mandated revelry gone terribly awry. An even more direct connection made with the screenplay. David Bruckner was part of the collaborative effort that produced the horror anthology film, ‘V/H/S.' This contribution, the first segment of the movie titled, ‘Amateur Night.' The basis of this story was a group of friends that rent the motel room with the intention of bringing young women back to have sex with them while wearing cameras hidden in a pair of glasses. One of the victims is a pretty young woman named Lily (Hannah Fierman) starts dismembering and killing the young men; it turns out that she was a succubus. In this film the same actress reprises her role of Lily with a slight variation; the character was a titular siren.

The story begins in a fashion that embraced by the significant number of films, the prolog. A man, soon to be known as, Mr. Nyx (Justin Welborn), is leading a small team of men exploring a rather large space almost entirely in the dark. As the flashlights traveled the devastation, the see some people in white robes apparently clawed to death. Over in the corner there on several small cages each containing a live goat. Mr. Nyx finds a circle with ruins drawn on the floor. As he bends to examine, he utters "amateurs" and making a correction to one of the symbols. Decide that the serpent was able to summon something but an adequate to contain it. The conclusion that he makes is that the group of Satanist or members of some other cult attempting to summon the demon. Out of the dark comes a beautiful young woman, Lily (Hannah Fierman), which is where fans of the’ V/H/S’ franchise realize that he has found something far worse than her form would lead you to believe. Now that the Prolog has suitably established the mood and general theme of the film now moved to the present day.

The camera focuses on a couple of young people having amorously playful time in bed; Jonah (Chase Williamson), and Eva (Lindsey Garrett) are engaged with their writing only a few days away. She told him that she is okay with strippers but no physical contact. This not that she lacks trust in her fiancé she is certain that his brother, Mac (Michael Aaron Milligan), is undoubtedly going to push them too far. The scene then shifts to the car ride to the groom and his friends, Elliott (Randy McDowell) and Rand (Hayes Mercure), in the car with Mac driving them to Garden City, New Jersey. Mac assures them that Las Vegas is overdone and that this is the hottest place on the East Coast. They soon see a sign for Temptations, a local strip club. After divesting them their cell phones to preclude calling girlfriends or fiancées makes the more promise that they will not say the word ‘No’ when confronted with an opportunity to experience something new. They get to the strip club it is a complete disappointment. It is almost empty. Only a few customers are present daily watching the performance by the apathetic strippers long way from the physical condition most men would find attractive. Picking up a bottle of scotch at the bar, Mac is approached by a stranger (William Mark McCullough) chosen that he’s on his way to real the real nightlight is happening. It is a private club, but he knows the owner and can get them in. Mac manages to override the objections of the others in they agree to go the club.

When the group gets there, they see what looks like an amateur production of ‘Caligula’ or perhaps the reenactment of ‘Eyes Wide Shut.' Everywhere you look people engaged in some form of debauchery. Mr. Nyx shows up and introduces himself as the owner immediately demonstrates that he knows far too much about the group including their names and the purpose of the celebration. Leading them all to the back room removed from the commotion in the front. As the guest of honor, he separates Jonah for special treatment as the other sits uneasily in the chamber. Mr. Nyx, accompanied by a beautiful young woman, Ash (Brittany S. Hall) wearing a neon blue wig. Mr. Nyx explains he doesn’t want their money just for them to think of the happiest moments of their lives. He plans to take those memories somehow and assures them they would hardly miss. After a few seconds, they seem to come to an array of what just happened although each of them now has a square tattoo behind the neck.

Meanwhile, Jonah took to a darkened room he sits in a chair facing a glass wall. On the other side of the wall is Lily who is obviously distraught at being trapped in the chamber. Jonah decides that she held in some form of sex slavery and he is determined to free her. It seems apparent that somehow Jonah has bonded to the darkly attractive young woman. Of course, he manages to free her and after rejoining his friends flee from the establishment. It is at this point that the second act of the story begins. Lily soon showed her true form killing one of the club’s bodyguards by ripping him to shreds. As she assumes her true form of teeth are a row of sharp pointed things that she can sprout demonic wings. She has bonded to Jonah and has become very protective of him. Much of this portion of the film consists of the friends running from Mr. Nyx when he does apprehend one of them enjoys torturing them. At this point, most of them are injured making the process of fleeing the scene exceedingly difficult. The movie eventually works its way to a likely conclusion completely turned on its head by a brief epilog.

Mr. Bishop worked exceedingly well with Mr. Bruckner, the screenwriter to take a short vignette woman anthology movie and transform it into a feature-length film. Many less capable filmmakers would take the easy path and merely pad the short with extraneous footage until achieving an adequate running time. Gratefully the creative minds behind this expansion are obviously diehard fans of horror not just purposed to grind out flicks for profit. The first noticeable change was to soften the personalities of the friends. In short, they were determined to make amateur pornographic films regardless of whether the feature young woman has given consent. A bachelor party is raunchy but within the bounds of general acceptability. Being waylaid to a demonic feeding ground is a commonly used trope, but with the distinctive spin given here, it comes across as fresh and entertaining.

The change in Lily from a succubus to a siren is sufficiently subtle to retain a similar threat level that within the context of the story escalated as a plot point conducive to maintaining a proper momentum to the pacing. That is indubitably the most important factor in a film of this type. The story is successful in engaging the audience immediately carefully escalating the intensity of the circumstances holding your attention in an increasing captivating manner. Jonah crafted as the epitome of the good man. He is not innocent on an absolute level but to the degree that is believable and relatable. Juxtaposed to him is his brother, Mac, self-serving and hedonistic he is the means to tempt the group into dangerous situations that otherwise they would not encounter. His character arc is one of the most important for driving the narrative. The other two friends do reinforce Jonah’s predisposition to surrounding himself with decent friends. Mr. Nyx ideally portrayed by Justin Welborn, whose ginger framed grin is overly friendly, but you still realize that he might not overtly lie, but the truth will not be what you were led to believe. Ms. Fierman may not have much in the way of dialogue, but she is exceptionally gifted in the use of facial expressions and body language to provide a memorably nuanced performance. The synopsis might lead you to believe this is just another slash and dash creature feature, but it is one of the best horror movies in quite a while.

Posted 12/23/2016

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