As Jennifer from the iconic Jennifer’s Body (2009) once said, “I just got Aquamarine on DVD. It’s about a girl who’s, like, half sushi.” But sometimes these half-sushi creatures aren’t so endearing, harmless, or fun. In the few mermaid horror films out there, these aquatic beings have bared their shark-like teeth and shown no mercy on those of us with two legs.
Mermaid creature features seem to be on the rise, with the release of The Lure and Blue My Mind in the last few years. Perhaps all those little girls who wanted to be Ariel realized there was something much more sinister lurking under the surface.
So, after you’ve returned from James Wan’s action-packed (non-horrific) Aquaman, try some of these freaky mermaid frights on for size..
8. She Creature (2001)
This made-for-TV movie premiered on Cinemax in 2001. It was meant to serve as a tribute to American International Pictures, a production company founded in 1954 that focused on low budget horror films. They were responsible for films such as The Raven (1963) and The Tomb of Ligeia (1965). She Creature stars Carla Gugino and Rufus Sewell as unsuccessful carnival workers who come to possess a real mermaid. The mermaid seems harmless at first, merely a beautiful woman with a fish tail. However, that is not the case as the creature takes on another, rather violent, form that has a taste for people. She Creature features a questionable Irish accent by Gugino, a possible mermaid baby, and some very 2001 CGI, so.. what’s not to love?
7. Siren (2018)
Freeform, previously ABC Family, plugged into the niche horror market with their 2018 show, Siren. The show takes place in Bristol Cove, a mermaid-obsessed coastal town that, according to legend, was once home to those creatures of the deep. However, they aren’t so sure what to do when actual mermaids wash up on shore.
It all starts with mysterious girl, Ryn (Eline Powell), who is actually a mermaid. She grabs the attention of local marine biologists who want to help her, despite the havoc she wreaks on Bristol Cove. She also draws the attention of some evil deep sea fisherman, because what would a mermaid TV show be without evil men with hooks and nets?
If you loved the first season, it was renewed for a second season, which is scheduled to premiere in January 2019. Season two is said to feature mermaids and mermen and how their different songs affect each gender.
6. Nymph (2014)
You ever go on vacation only to have it ruined by a man-eating mermaid? That’s the situation Kelly (Kristina Klebe, Hellboy) and Lucy (Natalie Burn, The Executioners) finds themselves in the 2014 film, Nymph. It’s your typical girls-trip-to-the- Mediterranean film where they drink wine and sit at the beach all day. It’s also a film where the camera really likes to linger on their scantily clad butts. Who loves short shorts? Nymph loves short shorts. But as their vacation progresses, they wander to an abandoned fortress that’s home to a not-so-friendly mermaid. Now, they must fight for their survival.
Nymph was directed by Serbian director Milan Todorovic. This is Serbia’s first creature feature, which makes it worthy of a watch. It may be a silly film, but it’s an example of important international horror filmmaking that may slip under the radar.
5. Mermaid’s Song (2015)
Mermaid’s Song is an homage of Hans Christian Andersen’s dark fairytale, The Little Mermaid. This version, however, takes place in the 1930s Dust Bowl, which seems like the opposite place that you’d find a mermaid. Charlotte (Katelyn Mager, Percy Jackson) is trying to help run the family business, which is being harassed by gangster Randall (Iwan Rheon, Game of Thrones). As she tries to fight back against his threats, she discovers her magical mermaid powers: the ability to control humans with her voice. Then it isn’t just the family business he wants.
So it’s a mermaid-gangster movie with some sick monster design that rejects the idea of mermaids being pretty. It’s movie that’ll be up the alley of anyone looking for a ridiculous creature feature.
4. Dagon (2001)
This wouldn’t be a proper aquatic creature list without at least one H.P. Lovecraft adaptation. Stuart Gordon’s Dagon is a loose adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which means this film doesn’t just have a mermaid—it has an entire town full of fish people.
Paul (Ezra Godden, Band of Brothers) is being visited by a razor-toothed mermaid in his dreams while on a sailboat-vacation with his girlfriend, Barbara (Raquel Meroño, Paco y Veva), and another couple—a trend seems to be emerging here. Then, they are caught in a storm, their boat crashes, and Scott and Barbara leave their friends to go find help in a small coastal village. However, this village is populated by fish people who have pledged their allegiance to the god, Dagon. So what follows is a lot of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, creepy fish men, and a mermaid that wants Scott for her own. Be warned: this film does wander into fish-god-sexual-assault territory as so many of Lovecraft’s adaptations are wont to do.
3. Night Tide (1961)
When a woman tells you she’s a mermaid, it might be in your best interest to believe her. Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet) plays sailor Johnny Drake who meets a “mermaid” sideshow performer named Mora (Linda Lawson, Sometimes a Great Notion). However, Mora believes her mermaid persona is more than a performance; she believes she is an aquatic creature sworn to kill men during the full moon. Her theory is backed by the fact that her past boyfriends have drowned under mysterious circumstances.
This 1961 film is more eerie and atmospheric than gory as many of the previous films on this list. It is also a love story about a man who wants what he can’t have. It is a piece of beautiful 1960s filmmaking and it features Hooper in his first big screen role, which is a plus.
2. Blue My Mind (2018)
It’s surprising that there aren’t more mermaid coming-of-age horror films, but in her directorial debut, Lisa Brühlmann has filled the void with Blue My Mind. She captures the hell of growing up, moving somewhere new, and puberty for a young girl with the added bonus of growing a fish tail.
After moving to a new town, Mia (Luna Wedler) tries to fit in with the cool crowd with drugs, partying, and some light asphyxiation. But then she develops a taste for the family goldfish and realizes something is very wrong. Blue My Mind is a film in the vein of Der Nachtmahr (2015), When Animals Dream (2014), and Ginger Snaps (2000) where a young girl undergoes a violent, alarming, and sometimes liberating transformation that illustrates the pain of puberty.
1. The Lure (2015)
Mermaid musical in an alternate-universe 1980s Poland. Need I say more? Agnieszka Smoczynska’s directorial debut is a stunning film about two mermaid sisters, Srebrna (Marta Mazurek) and Zlota (Michalina Olszanska), who work in a Polish night club. There, under the guise of singers, they use their siren songs to lure in men to quench their thirst for blood. However, it all goes awry as one of them falls in love with a human. This is another film that draws heavy inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s original The Little Mermaid, which doesn’t have such a happy ending. The Lure is a prime example of phenomenal, creative, and alluring (get it?) horror filmmaking.