Siren (2019) Short Film Review


by Jeremy Herbert


Some short films are made to be understood, some to be experienced. Nobody wins at the guessing game of intention, but writer-director-editor Christopher Beaubien’s Siren doesn’t walk a straight line in either direction.

Two women, the buttoned-up April (Dalit Holzman) and rebellious Brooke (Erin Morgan), speed home in the dark. Not on purpose, though. The former drifts away at the wheel, losing herself in a light-leaked, lens-flared halo of romantic anxiety. Does Brooke love her? She gave her everything, for what? Then the red-and-blue strobes yank her back to the road and reality, or at least something like it.

The daydream cinematography curdles into a binary nightmare as soon as the cop taps at her window. Everything’s red, blue, or lost in the black in-between. A visual nudge at Siren’s psychosexual tension and the double entendre hiding right there in the title.

As an experience, it’s in a league of its own. You won’t forget it on a visual level alone, and the disturbingly sensual suspense is one of a kind. But as a story and, at the risk of putting too much weight on it, a statement, Siren is more question than answer.

When one of the lovers cries, “We’re being erased,” it hits with timely force. That word, erased, is deliberate. It makes explicit what everything before it winks at, the loss of representation and identity. Do we trust the disciplinary forces of society because they’ve earned the right or because we have to? But both of the police officers are also women. How does that color the two-tone implications if they’re the ones doing the fascist seduction or, more accurately, hushed-breath brainwashing? Then there’s the unexpected shift into age-difference infantilization.

It’s entirely possible that my own background, bias, and orientation are keeping some cohesive meaning in a blind spot. But as it stands, Siren is like one of those 3-D Magic Eye puzzles. Arresting to look at, but hard to look through. You can just make out the shapes. But is there a grand image hidden in them or just an abstract pattern? In the case of Siren, it’s at least worth the squint.

Siren will have its World Premiere at the 2019 Sick ‘n’ Wrong Film Festival in Orlando, Florida.