Leigh (Vinessa Shaw), a recluse since childhood, lives out her days on her own island, an old home with enough security cameras, alarms, and gates to protect her from unwanted male attention. But it’s not really their fault; Leigh secretes a pheromone that attracts men and makes them see the woman they most desire. Plus, she’s anything but desirous of such affectations. At times her male suitors are chock full of cute and delusional gestures – note the bouquets of fresh flowers each morning left behind by lovelorn admirers. They’re like kittens to milk, cute but mostly harmless…except when they’re not.
She keeps a newspaper clipping pinned to her wall of a quarterback who beat another teammate to death over Leigh as a reminder of her strange power. Then there’s men like Carl (Ross Partridge), willing even to ruin his marriage to have Leigh at any cost. When Carl’s son falls for a beautiful girl, questions arise about the mysterious beauty who lives in the dark house all by herself. Not expecting to fall in love with his version of Leigh things quickly turn to violence and Carl is arrested. This subplot gets dragged out in short bursts, feeling almost like a red herring that never goes anywhere but used to heighten the dramatic effect of Leigh’s intense attraction.
Nonetheless, Leigh’s life is lonely as she’s rendered unable to function in a society that sees her only as an object of desire, stifling her movements wherever she goes; she’s the celebrity and men the paparazzi. She can’t go near them without being accosted, both physically and with their long, uncomfortable stares.That she brings out the worse in people is beyond her and their control.
Moreover, Leigh is practically a slave to mobbish exploiters after her blood is exploited to create a perfume that has similar results to her pheromones. They want more blood, threatening her if she doesn’t comply. This is where we meet Guy (Robert Kazinsky), a drifter, an enigma from the start, and unaffected by Leigh’s “womanly wiles” as her pheromones have no effect on him. Guy is an enigma from the start, and Leigh needs him.
Gradually, Leigh and Guy unveil their murky past and soon develop a connection that only gets complicated down the line. Things really start to get interesting as we begin to discover the secrets of Guy’s past. Siren is a slow burn, but it’s characters, their intentions, and the general cleverness of the film is alluring enough to keep you watching despite it’s lack of anything really profound.
In spite of this, the film leaves much to be desired and comes short of being truly fulfilling. At times it feels like a wasted opportunity as it never really explores areas as it should to create something truly memorable. This isn’t a great film by any standards, but the filmmakers do their best with a really cool idea to make it watchable. There’s a beautiful symmetry and a plethora of gorgeous shots by cinematographer Ross Richardson, many which are visually stimulating and at times stunning. Despite its faults, Siren is a unique low-budget film with an interesting idea and just enough mystery to keep you guessing about the outcome until the credits roll.