Monday, September 09, 2019

The Mermaid: Lake of the Dead – review

Director: Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy

Release date: 2018

Contains spoilers

I was in correspondence with Simon Bacon recently when he asked me if I knew of any mermaid/vampire crossover. This does happen occasionally but, as it happens, literally a few days later I came across this.

Now mermaid is a misnomer here and it is what the film title has been translated to from the Russian title Rusalka: Ozero myortvykh. The rusalka is from Slavic lore and is a form of restless dead. Zelenin (in Russian Folk Belief) suggests it is a suicide or murder victim who, in either case, was drowned. There is an entry in Bane’s Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology that has it as a type of fae created when a child dies before baptism or an adolescent dies a virgin and then says: “If it sees a handsome man, it will lure him into the water with it, as it is looking for someone to pass the night in pleasure with. However, the man seldom survives the experience; the rusalka ends up draining him of his youth and life”.

Sofia Shidlovskaya as the rusalka
So, what we have is a form of energy vampire and an opening narration over simple, but effective, graphics says much the same. They demand to be told that they are loved – this is something we also get in succubae tales sometimes – at which point they drag the victim into the waters but if they are not told this they will not forgive and torture the victim through life. It also suggests the rusalka will tickle the victim as they drown – something Bane also mentions.

eyes red
Following the introduction, we see a jetty and a man, Mishka (Igor Khripunov), on it talking to the water as a woman, Tanya (Nadezhda Igoshina), approaches him. He turns to face her and his eyes are red – he then jumps backwards into the lake. She offers to sacrifice herself for him and he emerges from the water and clambers to the jetty. Something pulls Tanya off, into the water where she drowns…

spooky summer house
Cut forward and swimmer Roma (Efim Petrunin) is giving his fiancé Marina (Viktoriya Agalakova) swimming lessons – but she is lacking confidence and really cannot swim yet (much too little is done with this later in the film). His swimming team mate Ilya (Nikita Elenev) challenges him to a race. He leaves her at the side of the pool and they race, but she gets in trouble and, though he rescues her, she is angry with him. He and Ilya later go to the summer house that his father has given him as a wedding present – his dad suggesting he sells it.

in the lake
Roma is estranged from his father and has not been to the house since his mother drowned (yes, it’s the couple from the opening). When he gets there the house is looking ramshackle (though it still has electricity) and he is annoyed when “the lads” show up – as Ilya has arranged – to throw a stag night… with girls… he leaves them to it and goes swimming (one questions whether he would go swimming in the lake he knows his mother drowned in?)

the kiss
Anyway, he gets out and a girl (Sofia Shidlovskaya) is on the jetty, wearing his shirt and combing her hair. He approaches and they kiss and she asks if he loves her… In the morning the lads find him out cold on the ground, the comb nearby (Ilya takes it, later it ends up in Roma's possessions though there is never an explanation as to whether Ilya put it there or it mystically moved to him). Roma starts acting oddly, he becomes ill (coughing and with a fever) and starts hallucinating. Eventually, in swimming trials, he believes himself to have been transported to the lake whilst, in reality, he almost drowns in the pool…

So, the race is on to free him from the rusalka and, given its blurb that suggests that his illness is making him losing health and vigour I have read this as energy vampirism (though the narrative is not explicit about this). It is suggested she is a suicide as her grave is in the lake. The logic is that a suicide may not be buried in a graveyard and that the lake has expanded since her burial and submerged the unhallowed grave. In flashback we see that she is (as a woman scorned) both a murderer and a suicide who drowned herself. Religious aspects are not included (Bane suggests both crosses and prayers are apotropaic) rather there is an aspect around her hair.

like a pike
There are dead men guarding her submerged grave who are animate but do not leave the waters – presumably other victims. She can change her face to look like other people and her teeth are sharp and her face can transform into something reminiscent of a pike’s face. Her element is, of course, water and therefore this seems to be a medium she can use to mystically travel great distances through. Feeding is mentioned and it is suggested that she feeds on love (though this can be read as metaphorical as well as read as literal as it then goes on to suggest that she transforms it into hatred and suffering).

Viktoriya Agalakova as Marina
The film itself was ok. For disclosure I saw the English dub of the film rather than watch a subtitled version with original dialogue and that probably didn’t help. I struggled to develop a sympathy for Marina and Roma – the film gave us characters pretty much by the numbers but their relationship felt flawed due to the strife shown early on. It is, essentially, an average (or just below) horror and doesn’t stand out that much – except with the fact that it uses an unusual Slavic creature. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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