PLOT: Bachelor party shenanigans get a group of men into a dangerous situation when they help a female creature escape from captivity in a twisted sex club.
REVIEW: Anthology films tend to be hit or miss, and for me the 2012 anthology V/H/S was largely a miss - while it had some good things about it, I never warmed up to the mixture of the found footage and anthology styles and really didn't like the majority of the characters in the film. One thing I loved about V/H/S, though, was the character of Lily, played by Hannah Fierman and introduced in the "Amateur Night" segment, directed by David Bruckner. She was an odd young woman who was picked up in a bar by some very questionable young men who intended to record their tryst with a hidden camera. Instead, they ended up recording their own deaths, because when they got Lily back to their room she turned out to have some interesting secrets... Lily and Fierman made a strong impression on a lot of V/H/S viewers and is remembered for her awkward manner, the badass reveal of her hidden abilities, and her delivery of the line "I like you."
When I heard that Lily would be coming back in her own spin-off film, I was excited to see her return. My enthusiasm for SiREN (they want you to write it with a lower case I) was boosted by the fact that it was being directed by Gregg Bishop, and I have been anxiously waiting for him to make another feature ever since seeing his movie DANCE OF THE DEAD in 2008. So, four years after V/H/S, Lily is back in a Bishop film released eight years after DANCE OF THE DEAD. I was hyped to see how it would turn out, and if Lily would be as captivating in a feature as she was in an anthology segment.
At its core, SiREN is exactly what you would expect a Lily movie to be, and what "Amateur Night" was - the story of a group of men meeting Lily while they're out for a debaucherous good time. She takes an instant liking to one of the men and pursues him while picking off his cohorts. However, the things writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski surrounded that story with were completely unexpected.
The film starts with an origin of sorts for Lily: apparently she was summoned into our world by a group of people who didn't realize what they were messing with, but were interested enough in the occult to sacrifice a whole bunch of goats. Almost immediately upon her arrival, Lily (or "the Lilith") ends up in the possession to an odd fellow called Mr. Nyx (Bishop regular Justin Wellborn), who imprisons her as a sex worker in his twisted "gentlemen's club".
This club is one strange place, filled with beyond the pale perversions. People can live out any fantasy here, and it won't cost them money. The price is a memory, extracted from your mind and represented as a leech. The workings of this club raised more questions for me than Lily herself ever did. I didn't need any answers about what she is other than a shrug, "Eh, she's just a monster." But this place - what is going on here, and how did this come about? We don't find out, because that's not really the point. This stuff just adds a whole other layer of unnerving strangeness that I didn't know I would be getting with this film.
The guys Lily met in "Amateur Night" were detestable scumbags, and Bishop promised the guys in his movie would be more likeable. They are. They're a quartet of pals out on the town for a bachelor party, it's the last night out for groom-to-be Jonah (Chase Williamson). Thankfully, these guys aren't the total assclowns you can sometimes get in a movie about party dudes. Jonah's brother Mac (Michael Aaron Milligan) is trying a bit too hard to show his sibling a good time, but he doesn't cross the line and become unbearable. This group is a little older, their glory days are behind them, they get tired earlier in the night than they used to, and it's more like they're partying out of a sense of obligation rather than a true desire to go nuts. These guys were not born to be wild.
It's Jonah who is taken to a back room where Lily puts on a show for him. It's he who is entranced by the unearthly "song" she "sings" and decides to help her escape from this life as a captive of human trafficker Mr. Nyx. And with this act of nobility he unwittingly unleashes hell on himself, his friends, and the club employees.
As good as the build-up to the moment when Lily is freed is, it does feel like it lasts a bit too long. More than 30 minutes have transpired before she takes off her shackles, and I don't think the film needed to spend quite so much time getting to that point. The bright side is, it's almost non-stop action from then on, with Lily doing her best to hold on to her man, Jonah doing his best to get away from her, and Mr. Nyx trying to get his Lilith back. There's plenty of violence and twists and turns along the way, with a standout moment being when Lily wreaks havoc at a diner while the camera focuses on Jonah instead of the destruction around him, the sound lowered because Jonah has earbuds in, trying to block out Lily's "song". This was a very cool stylistic choice.
Bishop assembled a good cast around Fierman to bring the characters to life, but anyone who has seen Justin Welborn in action before, particularly in DANCE OF THE DEAD, probably won't be surprised to know that he pretty much steals the show. Fierman is also perfect in the role of Lily, but I was slightly disappointed that she spends so much time in monster mode (and she's rather reminiscent of Dren in SPLICE) rather than having more "awkward girl" scenes. She's a little too preoccupied with tearing people to pieces.
Overall, SiREN is an entertaining little creature feature, with an emphasis on little - it runs a scant 82 minutes and isn't aiming too high. While this film is getting a limited theatrical release, it does feel more suited for the VOD, Digital HD, and DVD release that is following four days later. It's more of a small screen movie than a big screen one, but it's fun to watch on the smaller screen. If you liked DANCE OF THE DEAD and/or were intrigued by Lily in V/H/S, SiREN is absolutely worth checking out.