Can you hear the seashells sliding across the ocean floor? Can you see the mermaid’s tail flapping gently in the ocean as it glides towards shore? Well, if you can, you need Jesus…because Mermaid’s Song is so low on mermaid material that it’s criminal, especially considering that all of its marketing is leaned in that direction. Since it was what I was looking forward to the most, I have it written down for record’s sake – the main character only turns into a mermaid at the 35 minute mark and at the 81 minute mark, and it’s only for a few minutes each. I call shenanigans! How are you supposed to have a “dark homage to The Little Mermaid” set in the 1930’s and have little to no mermaid to showcase? I would wager that Mermaid’s Song was also released around this time to capitalize on The Shape of Water, but still, I really need to take this paragraph to get my point across that Mermaid’s Song is more story and more drama than anything else, and has a supreme lack of the aquatic cryptid. It’s currently available on digital outlets courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing. Normally, I’d say to avoid this movie all together because of mis-marketing. However, there’s one big reason why you should give this one a chance.
Shot under Artist View Entertainment and written by Bob Woolsey and Meagan Hotz, Mermaid’s Song follows a struggling vaudeville act that takes place in a mansion on the outskirts of a rural town. A shady character visits the show one night, and offers to pay off the family’s debt – as long as they make some illegal, often more sexualized changes to the routine. It’s around the same time that the family’s youngest member, Charlotte, starts receiving visits from her grandmother, who’s more calculated than maternal. When it’s discovered that Charlotte is a mermaid, like her mother before her, all parties involved hope to capitalize on the young woman’s supernatural powers. Directed by Nicholas Humphries, Mermaid’s Song stars Iwan Rheon, Katelyn Mager, Brendan Taylor,Steve Bradley, Jessie Fraser, Barbara Wallace, Natasha Ann Quirke and Sarah Boey. Produced by Jessica Leigh-Bojin, Lindsey Mann and Darren Borrowman, Wild Eye’s latest release is a jazz filled, dark drama and a complete cinematic experience that’s absolutely incredible for independent standards. I was blown away by the level of production and the care put into creating the films actuality and realism.
Normally, I wouldn’t name all of these behind-the-scenes workers, but the team that pieced this movie together was nothing short of outstanding. Production designers Victoria Pearson & Jessica Leigh-Bojin, creature designer Sarah Elizabeth, costume designers Brandon Peterson & Ash Turner, set decorator Victoria Pearson, cinematographer Naim Sutherland and editors Darren Borrowman & Brendan Woolard all put in serious work that made Mermaid’s Song a masterclass in film-making and, honestly, a film that should be considered for an Oscar nomination due to its behind-the-scenes work. The props, the clothes, the music, the locations…everything truly felt like it belonged in the 1930’s, and it was done with such perfection and wonder. Not that I don’t love Wild Eye Releasing, but I can only wonder why a more artsy distributor didn’t pick up this hidden gem. When you throw in a few surprises, classic acting and a classic “tie you to the train-tracks” villain, and exquisite camera work, Mermaid’s Song is nothing short of amazing. Super impressive and enviable to anyone working in independent film. And I guess it’s metaphorical in that Charlotte evolves as a character just as much as she does a supernatural predator.
As far as horror and science fiction goes, there’s no fairy tale to be found here. I don’t think this is as much of a Little Mermaid homage as it is a depression era drama meets monster movie. Though I will say the mermaid was made with impressive, practical effects and not cringe-worthy CGI. Mermaid’s Song is slightly creepy and suspenseful and a little unnerving at times, but it’s far from scary. It’s mostly just a lot of talking, a lot of singing and a lot of character reveal. Again, it’s more artsy and a flashy production more than anything else. Sure, there’s a supernatural massacre at the end of the movie, but the build-up and climax isn’t worth the wait-time. With a lack of mermaid and so much dialogue, I don’t see audiences – especially a horror audience – making it through to the very end. Impressive in every other category, but incredibly low in the realm of horror and science fiction, I’m going to give this one a score that’s right in the middle. But I was so snared by this film’s production value and I hope the mermaid lives to sing another day. Final Score: 5 out of 10.