Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Eas­ily the best seg­ment in the 2012 fran­chise-start­ing, found-footage om­nibus "V/H/S" was its first, "Am­a­teur Night," in which a trio of frat-type dudes out to shoot some con­sen­sual-or-not porn with un­wit­ting "real" girls find that one bar pickup isn't a girl-or even hu­man-at all. It was short, sweet, and shock­ing. None of those qual­i­ties quite carry over to "Siren," a be­lated fea­ture ex­pan­sion of the ear­lier film, with Han­nah Fier­man the only ma­jor re­turn­ing tal­ent, as the tit­u­lar crea­ture.

En­com­pass­ing more con­ven­tional genre ma­te­rial than its pre­de­ces­sor (and jet­ti­son­ing the found-footage an­gle, per­haps thank­fully), this is nonethe­less an en­er­getic and en­ter­tain­ing ex­er­cise that could spawn its own spin-offs. Chiller Films opened "Siren" on a hand­ful of US screens Dec 2, with DVD and stream­ing re­lease fol­low­ing four days later. Af­ter a pre­lude, in which a sher­iff and the cow­boy-hat­ted Mr. Nyx (Justin Wel­born) dis­cover the bloody af­ter­math of an ap­par­ent oc­cult rit­ual, we en­ter stan­dard hor­ror ter­rain with the in­tro­duc­tion of young pro­tag­o­nists whose num­bers will surely dwin­dle in short or­der.

It's the bach­e­lor party for generic nice guy Jonah (Chase Wil­liamson), who's about to marry Eva (Lindsey Gar­rett). He assures her he won't be get­ting up to much trou­ble; nei­ther he nor best men El­liott (Randy McDow­ell) and Rand (Hayes Mer­cure) are much in­clined to­ward he­do­nis­tic ex­cess. Un­for­tu­nately, they're at the mercy of Jonah's brother Mac (Michael Aaron Mil­li­gan), who promptly ditches their cell­phones (so no girl­friends or spouses can be con­tacted midrevel), breaks out the drugs, and hus­tles the oth­er­wise re­luc­tant group to the near­est strip club. Truly wild nightlife proves hard to find, how­ever, at least un­til an in­sin­u­at­ing stranger claims he can lead them to the "real un­der­ground" lo­cal party scene. This in­volves a dis­qui­et­ingly long drive to the mid­dle of nowhere. But at road's end, the stag quar­tet find them­selves faced with an in­con­gru­ous man­sion-full of up­scale club/bor­dello kink­i­ness un­der the pro­pri­etor­ship of the afore­men­tioned Mr. Nyx. Sus­pi­cious ex­otic li­ba­tions are drunk, smirk­ing staffers (look­ing like a cross be­tween Burn­ing Man at­ten­dees and Russian mafia) are goaded, and, as a spe­cial treat, Jonah is hus­tled off to a side cham­ber for a promised "ex­pe­ri­ence" that will be mem­o­rable, but not-in def­er­ence to Eva-in­volve ac­tual phys­i­cal con­tact. The ex­pe­ri­ence turns out to be sex­ual, how­ever, de­spite Jonah and the mys­te­ri­ous Lily (Fier­man) be­ing dif­fer­ent rooms, with a win­dow in-be­tween. All it takes for the im­mi­nent new­ly­wed to ex­pe­ri­ence an earth-shak­ing or­gasm is for her to press up to the glass. Upon leav­ing, he takes note of her locked cell and as­sumes she is be­ing held against her will. He's right about that, but very wrong in free­ing her, which has im­me­di­ate un­for­tu­nate con­se­quences for ev­ery­one-not least for Jonah, to whom this shape-shift­ing "Lilith" now has an emo­tional attachment, and woe be­tide any­one who gets in her way.

The bach­e­lor party mem­bers flee, pur­sued not only by that amorous, now-not-so-pretty crit­ter but also by her en­raged keeper Nyx and his goons. Di­rec­tor Gregg Bishop, who made two prior indie genre fea­tures be­fore con­tribut­ing to 2014 fran­chise en­try "V/H/S Vi­ral," re­places orig­i­nal seg­ment helmer/co-writer David Bruck­ner ("South­bound"). Here, Bishop, along with sce­nar­ists Luke Piotrowski and Ben Collins, hits some pretty fa­mil­iar notes. The yup­pie-ter­ror­iz­ing badass vil­lains and their only-in-the-movies deca­dent plea­sure-palace are redo­lent of "Hos­tel," "From Dusk Till Dawn" and so forth.

The semi-tongue-in-cheek tone makes for a fly­ing-stalker-crea­ture movie that's less scary than "Jeep­ers Creep­ers," and "Lily's" back­ground­ing mythol­ogy is not very fully ex­plained. (Her "siren song" could be a lot more dis­tinc­tive, too.) Stlll, "Siren" is lively if oc­ca­sion­ally rough around the edges, pack­ing a sat­is­fy­ing amount of ac­tion and a cou­ple of amus­ingly nasty sur­prises into its short run­ning time. Per­form­ers are game, and dig­i­tal FX are wisely kept ra­tioned un­til the last reel. While the con­cept's po­ten­tial isn't fully tapped, there's enough fun to be had here that one hopes any fu­ture in­stall­ments will sus­tain and in­crease the air of macabre un­pre­dictabil­ity rather than suc­cumb­ing to the suc­cubus-slasher model of the "Species" films, which have a some­what sim­i­lar gist.

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