Mermaid Down Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Archstone Distribution & Alliance Entertainment


Directed by Jeffrey Grellman
Written by Jeffrey Grellman and Kelly Lauren Baker
2019, 94 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 29th, 2019

Alexandra Bokova as The Mermaid
Burt Culver as Dr. Beyer
Megan Therese Rippey as Reyna
Eryn Rea as Charlotte
Meggan Kaiser as The Ghost
Cara Bamford as Susan

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Mermaid horror has come on strong in recent years. The strongest entry for my money has been Lisa Brühlmann’s coming-of-age story, Blue My Mind. Most of the others tend to go schlocky and effects heavy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Still, the age-old legend of the mermaid has depths yet to be explored, if you’ll pardon the pun. So, how do you change it up in 2019?

How about fantasy-horror with a fairy tale bent and a message of female empowerment? I assume I have your attention now.

Mermaid Down is the story of The Mermaid (Alexandra Bokova; The Master of Pulpits), a wild beauty who is netted from the sea by a pair of nefarious fishermen. Her tail is chopped off, and her human half is thrown into the fish-hold. Before you can blink, however, the pair are taken out by a nearby sailor. Is it a rescue for the wounded mythical creature? Negative…her “savior” is Dr. Beyer (Burt Culver; Clowntergeist), a demented psychiatrist who sees her as the world’s most valuable experiment/prize. She’s taken to the Beyer Psychiatric Hospital, where she recovers as a new pair of human legs grow in. She’s “the new girl”, mocked by some of the girls and pitied by others. She makes a friend however in The Ghost (Meggan Kaiser; Deadly Sins), the spirit of a girl who was murdered by Dr. Beyer. There’s another girl there who sees The Ghost as well, though everyone else just thinks she’s crazy. As the wheels fall off the bus at the hospital and the good doctor’s true nature becomes clearer, the girls will bond together and rally around the fantastic newcomer.

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From the opening scene of Mermaid Down, which shows the two drunk fishermen plotting how to catch a mermaid while they drink whiskey from tiny tea cups and speak in a sing-songy parody of Quint from Jaws, you know you’re in for something that has an entirely different sensibility than anything else you’re likely to see. There’s a quality to it that’s equal parts fantasy and arthouse, as if Pan’s Labyrinth got freaky with Mother!

I’ve not seen anything quite like this in some time. Even when it doesn't make sense in the traditional linear fashion, you’re still held spellbound. Mermaid Down is a film that requires a little bit of patience for the way the story is told, admittedly, but as you feel it gaining speed, you know you’re in for something you’ll have a very hard time forgetting.

The performance by Alexandra Bokova is simply hypnotic. Sure, she’s beautiful, and that plays a serious part (she’s Russian born of multiple ethnicities and exotic as all get out). Physical beauty is the least of it, though – she never utters a word of actual dialogue, instead expressing herself through her eyes and sign language. It’s a joy to watch. What you’ll love is that you can see how deadly and dangerous she is from the first time you lay eyes on her. I can see some folks thinking Mermaid Down isn’t a horror film at all, but all you have to do is see the bad intentions in her eyes to know otherwise. It’s one of my favorite performances of the year.

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The rest of the cast is quite solid, too, though none are on Alexandra Bokova’s level. Their mesh as the women come together, however, is where things get really fun. There’s a mythology established that there are women all across the world who come from mermaid blood and don’t even know it, powerful creatures who don’t know their true nature. I like that metaphor – it’s true to life and writer/director Jeffrey Grellman does a stellar job of reinforcing it. The men in this film are bastards across the board, and while that may be a tad heavy-handed, it’s not without some merit in that sort of environment. The abuse of power being used to hold in check the things we can’t ultimately control or even comprehend is a story as old as mankind itself. Good stuff!

The SFX are used sparingly and are appropriately gruesome when needed, though Mermaid Down is not a “creature feature” like many other mermaid films we’ve seen. It’s more sublime than that; a pretty neat trick when you consider the fantasy-laden palette it’s painted on! If you’re in the mood for misogyny or mindless T&A, then you’ll need to look elsewhere (though there is nudity). Mermaid Down asks more of you and gives you much more in return. Seashell bras and singing crabs need not apply.

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Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover

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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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