Night Tide and She Creature by Mina Kelly

Night Tide and She Creature

by Mina Kelly

I had a bit of a flashback to my posts for last year’s Fae Awareness when I came to watch Night Tide and She Creature; as Ondine was rooted in the real world while The Secret of Roan Inish embraced the myth wholeheartedly, the same is true of Night Tide and She Creature respectively. Last year’s films were romances. This year’s are horror.

The following review spoils both films pretty thoroughly, I’m afraid.

In Spanish and Italian the word of mermaid is Sirena, in French Sirène, Portuguese Sereia, Polish Syrena, Romanian Sirenă. Trust English to be the odd one out, huh? Of course, the irony is that the sirens of Greek myth were very definitely not sea creatures, but instead actually had several bird features, which came and went as the myths evolved.

The first mermaid as we’d recognise her to appear mythologically is Atargatis, mother of an Assyrian queen. Ashamed of accidentally killing her lover she tries to turn into a fish, but she’s so beautiful her top half remains human and only her legs transform. At least this explains the doomed romance angle we’re still so hung up on today. I’ve always found it a bit weird how strongly associated they are with romance: as Fry in Futurama complains, “Why couldn’t she be the other kind of Mermaid? With the fish part on top and the lady part on the bottom!”

The usual way around this is the give the mermaid legs under certain circumstances, which both Night Tide and She Creature do. In a cute reversal, while Night Tide‘s mermaid only has a tail at full moon, She Creature‘s only has legs then.

Night Tide

Night Tide opens with Dennis Hopper as a young sailor, Johnny wandering into a bar. He sees a beautiful woman, Mora, and makes an excuse to join her at her table. She acquiesces, but when he tries to strike up a conversation she cuts him short, insisting she wants to listen to the music. He offers to buy her a drink, she declines. A strange old lady comes to the table and talks to the beautiful woman in a foreign language, later revealed to be Greek (I have no idea if it’s actually Greek or just gobbledegook). Mora is frightened and leaves the bar in a panic, asking Johnny to pay off her tab. Johnny does, and follows Mora home, cornering her outside her flat and demanding she invites him up. She refuses, he kisses her, she tells him he can come over for breakfast the next day.

This film came out a year after Psycho, and frankly, after that opening, I had a whole different idea about what sort of plot it was going to have (especially after the breakfast scene, in which Johnny goes on about how attached he was to his mother!). Instead it turns out we’re meant to find Johnny’s ‘forwardness’ charmingly awkward, rather than the actions of a date-rapist.

Anyway, Mora lives over a merry-go-round at aVeniceBeachfairground and plays a mermaid as part of the sideshow. She’s got two dead boyfriends and a lot of gossip going around about her, and she believes she’s a mermaid. And despite all that I can’t shake the feeling she could do better than Johnny. She’s also got a mad, drunk, ex-British Navy sea captain as a guardian, who keeps heads in jars in his apartment.

Johnny isn’t sure what to think of it all, and even I felt a little sympathy for him as he tried to figure out what the hell is going on. He’s sure beautiful, dainty Mora can’t be a killer, but what if she can’t help herself? What if it’s her mermaid blood?

This theory is put paid to when they go swimming, in a scene I had to watch twice to really take in what just happened. Dennis Hopper actually proves he can act (about time!), and collapses into delirium. When he wakes up he’s accused of killing Mora; I have a moment when I think the film is turning on its head again. I’m actually hooked. What the hell is going on here?

Sadly, nothing as exciting as I’d hoped, and it’s all wrapped up in a rather cliché way. Shame.

She Creature

Night Tide is most commonly compared with Carnival of Souls, and visually the lighting and camera work have something in common. It’s well shot, but while the visuals haven’t dated the plot has, and it’s hard to sympathise with the main characters. Hopper has a few shining moments, but I’m not sure they’re worth watching the rest of the film for unless you’re already a fan.

She Creature also has a sideshow mermaid as the female lead, but she’s a rather more intelligent character than Mora. Lily, played by Carla Gugino, is sleeping with the carnival’s manager Angus (Rufus Sewell, AKA that guy! You know, he’s in. Um. That film.). For the early twentieth century Lily’s got a good bit of independence and seems to enjoy her life with the other carnies, until Angus’s desire for money leads them to kidnap a real mermaid.

That’s right: She Creature gives us a real mermaid, almost from the beginning. She’s beautiful and alien and terrifying, and like Lily you can’t help but be drawn to her. Angus has the bright idea of taking her toAmerica. The boat makes for a great (and cost-effective) setting for the rest of the film, but you have to wonder why somewhere with less ocean to cross wouldn’t have been just as good. Angus is smart, but only in certain directions.

The film has a lot of fun with the claustrophobia of the boat and the tension between the sailors and the carnies. Lily suffers the worst of it as the only woman on board, loomed over by men threatening to sexually assault her and snubbed in a way even the black character is (though turn of the century attitudes are name checked, as are modern ones – he dies first). It’s like a haunted house where everyone knows where the ghost is: in the tank, licking blood from her lips.

Lily has a diary belonging to the last woman to spend a lot of time with the mermaid. The diary contains scientific observations about the mermaid, such as what she eats (human flesh) and how regularly (a lot more often than she appears to be right now). It’s fascinating because it shows a scientific rigor none of the male characters match. Lily’s speculations are dismissed as female flights of fantasy, no matter how carefully she phrases things. There’s a wonderful scene where she tries to figure out how to tell Angus she’s pregnant, and she thinks it’s due to the mermaid. Oh, she also appears to be possessed by the mermaid sometimes. Though frankly I’d have tried to strangle Angus without the help of a supernatural sympathiser by this point.

The mermaid briefly turns into a human thanks to the full moon, in a sequence that isn’t really necessary for anything except confirming that most of the men on board deserve to die, then ramps it up into full on creature feature mode. The effects are decent, and it’s the only place the plot can really go, but if it’s killing creatures you’re into you’ll find the climax fairly standard.

She Creature is a made of TV movie taking advantage of an unused made for cinemas plot. It makes a good hash of it, and in some ways the deficits are more easily forgiven than they would be on a big screen, even though they’re plot based. For a horror film it frankly isn’t that scary and very few of the plot twists come as genuine surprises, but the emphasis on women using the scientific process is a nice change in this sort of thing. Lily is a smart, likeable heroine who very quickly realises she’s got more in common with the mermaid than the men on board. Lily makes the film worth watching.

In both films mermaids represent Otherness, specifically the Otherness of women. Night Tide speaks to its audience through Johnny: his actions are shown, his motivations explained, his psychology understood. Mora is a mystery even to herself, her Otherness heightened by her exotic history. She Creature speaks to its audience through Lily: she knows better than anyone else on the ship what it’s like to be one of a kind and to be treated as though she has less understanding than a child, but the male characters refuse to make an effort understand her or accept that her point of view is as rational as theirs. Though the audience see her point of view the characters still perceive her as Other.

Both films are worth watching, but it’s She Creature that’s worth watching more than once.


Visit Mina Kelly at solelyfictional.org.

Spirited Away Review by Alexandra Seidel

Spirited Away
Reviewed by Alexandra Seidel

Spirited Away is an Oscar-winning production from Studio Ghibli, written and directed by Miyazaki Hayao. It was released in 2001 and shall be reviewed here, as spoiler-free as possible.

Spirited Away is a classical to-Fairyland-and-back adventure. All the elements we love so well are there: bravery, friendship, shape-changing, and the discovery of the main character’s inner strength (that was just sitting there, ready to be discovered all the time). There is of course also a little bitterness in this, for those who visit Fairyland will eventually have to go home again.

The main character is Chihiro, a young girl (on a personal note, seeing a strong female main character makes me just love this anime that much more). She gets inadvertently pulled into the fairy realm (not European Fairyland, this is the home of the Japanese gods and spirits) where she works hard to save her parents who foolishly ate fairy food and got turned into pigs as a result.

Now, Spirited Away is full of all these little details that we know and fervently love from myth and folktale. For example, we will find the evil witch/good witch dichotomy here that so many fairy tales contain, the magic of one’s own name, the trials of the hero, and how she always finds her own creative ways to come through in the end.

Chihiro and No-Face

Spirited Away combines these well-known elements with its very own visual flair. Settings and characters are created with love and great care for detail. The bathhouse Chihiro finds herself in would just be highest on my list of places to visit if I ever got the chance to travel to Fairyland.

To summarize, Spirited Away is a lovely tale, something that you can watch as a child, and then re-watch as you grow older just to see new things in it every single time. This anime is just like a good book that way, and really, that should be saying everything.


Alexandra Seidel is a Rhysling nominated poet, writer, and editor. She has a powerful affection for the unreal and strange, the weird, the wicked, and naturally, the beautiful. She loves speculative writing because all these things come together there with the power to create universes. Oh, she also likes tigers, who doesn’t.

Alexa’s work has appeared in Jabberwocky, Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, and elsewhere. Her first book, “All Our Dark Lovers,” is forthcoming in 2013 from Morrigan Books. She is the poetry editor for Niteblade and the managing editor of Fantastique Unfettered. You can read her blog (which she really tries to update once or twice a month) at  www.tigerinthematchstickbox.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @Alexa_Seidel.

#14: Black Swan

The latest riff on the Swan Lake theme, last year’s much-talked-of Black Swan.

Princess Mononoke Review by Alexandra Seidel

Princess Mononoke
Reviewed by Alexandra Seidel

Princess Mononoke was released 1997 in Japan (1999 inNorth America) and has since received much praise from critics. It was created by Miyazaki Hayato of Studio Ghibli.

This review contains as few spoilers as possible so you can still enjoy the movie in case you haven’t seen it yet.

Here is what Princess Mononoke is: raw and beautiful, painful to watch at times, bitter, cathartic. It is set in medieval Japan, the Muromachi period to be precise. The viewer sees the old clash with the new, human evolution, especially the development of mining and firearms, are pitted against unrestrained nature. What is interesting about Mononoke is that the forces of nature come to us in the traditional shapes that Japanese folklore has long assigned them, gods and spirits who inhabit and give life to trees and living creatures as well as the land itself. In Japanese, these are referred to as “mononoke.”

InMiyazaki’s creation, these mononoke though are decidedly not apart from the world of humans, and they are certainly concerned about what happens in this world. Their concern however turns to active hostility as humans continue to disregard them. In the middle of the conflict between the ancient spirits of the land and the human’s desire to move forward no matter the cost, we find San, a young woman who was adopted into a family of spirit wolves. As such, she represents the old way of life, for she is the person who is most closely connected with the mononoke. In the human corner, if you will, there is Lady Eboshi, a forceful woman who is made great by her compassion for the pariahs of society. She is the kind of person whose vision is a better life for all people, no matter where they come from. These two extremes are bridged in the movie by the young Ashitaka who is himself an outsider. It is through his eyes that we can see the good, but also the faults in both sides, and just like him, we find ourselves hoping that there is a way to resolve the conflict without everything going up in flames, without terribly losses for both sides.

Princess Mononoke may not be the most current anime production there is, but the issues raised here are issues that every generation has to discover anew for itself: part with the old and look only ahead or honor custom and ritual. Only the problem is, things are never that easy, and this is what Monononke shows us in its relentless visual language, so if you are up for that and have not yet seen Princess Mononoke, I recommend that you have at it.


Alexandra Seidel is a Rhysling nominated poet, writer, and editor. She has a powerful affection for the unreal and strange, the weird, the wicked, and naturally, the beautiful. She loves speculative writing because all these things come together there with the power to create universes. Oh, she also likes tigers, who doesn’t.

Alexa’s work has appeared in Jabberwocky, Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, and elsewhere. Her first book, “All Our Dark Lovers,” is forthcoming in 2013 from Morrigan Books. She is the poetry editor for Niteblade and the managing editor of Fantastique Unfettered. You can read her blog (which she really tries to update once or twice a month) at  www.tigerinthematchstickbox.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @Alexa_Seidel.

Tad Williams’ The War of the Flowers by Miya Kressin

Tad Williams’ The War of the Flowers

by Miya Kressin

What would you do to stay alive? Would you abandon your world, your friends? Would you leave everything behind because what was in front of you was far less deadly than where you were, even if “tamer” or even “less frightening” could never apply? Would you destroy half your race just to create a world safe for you? Would you steal a child?

“We are none of us promised anything but the last breath we take, Theo Vilmos.” ~Mud Bug Button

For power? Would you kill friends or family? If you had the ability, would you use ancient magics banned by your society to destroy them? Would you destroy your way of life and force your way into unknown waters for the sake of a chance at being the new royalty? Would you create a changeling?

What about for love? Would you let your dreams die to keep your loved one? Would you try so hard only to find you were going the wrong way? Would you give up your world for love? Your family? Would you sentence a child to die for just a chance at saving your love? Would you make a bargain with your soul — or at least your body — as the wager?

“If you swear an oath here then you had better fulfill it or you will definitely reap the consequences and they will be unpleasant in some particularly apt way.” ~Remover of Inconvenient Obstacles

Bargains are dangerous everywhere, but none more so than Faerie. Your word is your life. At times, someone else’s word is your life. Promises have far reaching consequences — some bad, others equally good. Being ignorant of the wager you make does not change the fact that you made it. Perhaps you crossed a creek without asking permission of its guardians and found yourself owing a favor to the nymphs.

Or maybe you were just clueless in general until your life was on the line. That was Theo’s story. Theo Vilmos starts off as thirty-year-old lead singer who can’t even claim to being a “has been.”  He’s a never-was who squandered his talent. Before life took its toll on Theo, he was known for his potential. But, potential and talent alone won’t get you where you need to be if you don’t have the drive to reach for your dreams and get your hands dirty with the hard work to get there.

After two devastating blows dropped him to an all-time low, Theo left his mother’s house as it had never felt like home and the city behind to rent a cabin up in the forested mountains and take time to think. In his quiet moments, he began reading the odd memoir written by his mother’s late uncle who believed he had visited the magical world of Faerie.  From the moment he began the odd hunt to find what an inherited safety deposit box key may hold for him (an odd novel that seemed as much memoir as it was fantasy,) Theo lost his tremulous hold on the mortal world.

In Tad Williams’ The War of the Flowers, multiple stories are spun onto the same intricate thread, stories I will attempt to share glimpses of without also giving spoilers. Love, power, and survival dance together to a beautiful dirge foretelling the destruction of an entire realm, and the reader is left uncertain if it will be the mortal world or Faerie. Maybe it should be Faerie. The magical realm is nothing like the childhood images of happy, winged creatures dancing through fields of flowers. Their own legends tell of a time like that before the King and Queen left, leaving another sort of flower important.

The Flowers are families comprising a sub-race of fae who are in charge of the politics, power (our idea of magic is their science,) and the social hierarchy. The closer a creature is to looking mortal, the higher one ranks in the political games, going so far as to cut off wings and dye their hair or eyebrows to appear more human.

“Oh, the color? It’s nothing—they were always white like this. I decided to stop dyeing them, that’s all. To stop pretending I wasn’t a Thornapple.” ~Poppy Thornapple.

The first fae Theo met, however, were nothing like the Flowers, nor were they as pleasant. While Applecore is a sprite—a tiny, winged being capable of casting magic charms like most other fae—she is far from the Tinkerbell character we’ve long associated with those like her. With a mouth like a sailor and an even sharper temper, ‘Core is loyal even if she’s bitchy.

“Tell you what, boyo, I’m trying to save your life and you’re not helping. Maybe I should take one of these sticks and lodge it up your back passage. That’d make you walk slow enough.” ~Applecore

A sharp-tongued sprite was far from his worse worries however. It was the irrha, a “corruption of moonlight”dark spirit sent by the Flowers to bring Theo across without consent, who freezes you to the spot, pushing you to keep reading to ensure that the protagonist isn’t caught. You’re first introduced to the irrha when it kills a mortal and steals its deformed body in its mindless attempt to catch the Theovilmos creature.

In his attempts to avoid this irrha, Theo and Applecore begin a journey through Faerie that not only takes them to the City (the only city) but also takes them on a journey into the soul of a man who is not quite what he seems. Events set into motion before he was born became the ones that would eventually lead to changing his home world into one that would never be the same. In a story where our world and Faerie have made several intimate exchanges of souls, identifying one’s true state becomes harder and harder.

“Black iron, you’re a mortal!”

“No. Well, sort of. It’s a long story. Do you want to hear it?” ~Poppy and Theo

While wandering New Erewhon, Theo is taken to the nautilus shell shaped City, where he wanders from the outlying counties named for trees (Rowan and Birch are two of the most often named) and into spiraled city districts. Entering in Sunrise, Theo and Applecore go on a journey through Morning Sky and Forenoon and all the way into Eventide and Moonlight. It is the eventual journey to the Midnight realm as he meets the voice of his nightmares where Theo must make a decision between life, love, and power. Which will he choose?  If you could only have one, or prevent another from having them at great personal cost, which would you choose? What bargain would you make?

The War of the Flowers, where you shouldn’t make a bargain unless you’re guaranteed the desired outcome and are willing to pay any price.


Miya Kressin is an author, mother, caffeine addict, wife, and fiber artist- though not necessarily in that order. When not playing with her three daughters  (a 7 y/o and twin 4 y/os,) Miya can be found writing or working her way through a stack of random crafts and art projects if she can get pulled away from her gaming fun.

Her novel The Changeling’s Champion was released by The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House in 2010 and has since been picked up for a second edition by Exciting Press. Exciting Press has also picked up her fantasy trilogy The Island.

#12 & #13: Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away

Two of Miyazaki’s most beloved and adored movies today: Mononoke and Spirited Away. So much love.

Solstice!

To all those celebrating Litha today, check out Jodi Lee’s wonderful post from last year: “Litha — Night of the Fae“.

Midsummer love to all. And on a more secular note…

someecards.com - Let's enjoy a day that's longer than others for reasons that don't involve having a terrible hangover

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