A little too reliant on loud noises and not making the most of potential mythology, Russian-language The Mermaid: Lake of the Dead offers some good effects but the impressive moments are too infrequent to make too much of a lasting impression.
Synopsis: Roma’s life is changed forever by a meeting, and a kiss, with a strange young woman he meets at a lake deep in the forest. It is a meeting he soon regrets, when he falls prey to a mysterious ailment which gradually deprives him of his strength and vigor.
His bride Marina is ready to do whatever it takes to free her fiancé from the ancient curse. But is her love strong enough to break it?
The film does position the mermaid as a genuine threat, which is positive as such a concept can be difficult to handle. The effects back this up well with some great underwater photography and CGI movements ramping up the sense of the unusual and uncanny, particularly emphasising the twisting motions possible in water but not on land. Similarly the design later in the story does well to sustain the mermaid as something to be feared by employing well-placed moments of CGI trickery.
There is an over-reliance on jumps which add very little in terms of atmosphere. The jumps are the ones I find most difficult to appreciate – a stab of loud music and something jumping at the screen. That’s not to say that none of these scares land, just that it feels a bit too familiar to be used with a concept that isn’t over-saturated. On the same note and without including any spoilers, there is not very much attention paid to building a mermaid mythos. The central figure operates very much like other supernatural figures and so the term mermaid seems designed only to support the use of water within the story. This leaves the mermaid angle under explored, which is a shame.
Everyone in the cast is putting in solid work, although there’s no one particularly who stands out. I think this is mostly due to the film feeling like a fairytale – the characters are too stock for anyone to really shine, although this serves the story. The production values are good and director Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy has a feel for when things should slow down and when they should push forward.
Overall, The Mermaid: Lake of the Dead would be better served by more depth (no pun intended) in the exploration of mermaid mythology. Without this, it remains a fairly standard dark fairytale employing familiar horror tropes. With a solid cast, production and reasonable story it definitely isn’t a bad film, but could certainly do more.
The Mermaid: Lake of the Dead is out on UK DVD on July 22nd.