Starring: Emmy Perry, Elisabeth Rohm, Jack Dylan Grazer
Director: Kevan Peterson
Running Time: 92 mins
Scales: Mermaids Are Real is an American film about a young girl who discovers that she will become a mermaid when she turns 12 years old.
At its worst, this film is painfully nonsensical, horribly boring and even genuinely disturbing. It might look like a braindead low-budget kids’ movie on the outside, but for some reason Scales: Mermaids Are Real decides to tackle puberty and growing up in the most uncomfortable way possible.
On a superficial level, though, this film is purely ridiculous. Its bizarre attempts to make mermaids a real part of the world are fairly uninspiring, yet its imagination runs wild with a whole load of gibberish about god knows what else.
You know what a mermaid is, but this film bewilderingly thinks that it’s worth telling you about the secret society of half-mermaid-half-humans (even more confusing) that live among the rest of us.
Throw that in with some preposterous, non-sensical fantasy lore and an unthreatening villain trying to hunt them down, and it makes for an idiotic and regularly laughable story.
Now, this is a kids’ movie, so I think it’s fair to cut it a little slack for its crazed fantasy lore. That’s no excuse for how little sense it makes, but if you’re an eight year-old girl, then it might be fun to see mermaids in the real world.
However, I found it strangely difficult to really see this as a kids’ film, both because of its themes and its oddly disturbing visuals and special effects.
The coming-of-age story is perfectly acceptable, and although they take things a little far with the main metaphor, it’s not something that’s particularly disturbing.
But when we start to move away from elements of growing up that can be directly connected with the real world to stuff that’s all the more ridiculous, this film takes on a hugely uncomfortable turn.
With a bizarre screenplay that sees a young girl followed by a group of grown women waiting for her to get her gills, tail and whatever else, Scales has all the childlike wonder of A Nightmare On Elm Street.
And worse than even that, the graphic way in which the film shows the physical changes that our young lead undergoes is even more disconcerting.
Mermaids are ugly enough on film at the best of times, whether in a horror context (The Lure), something a little lighter (The Mermaid), or even something that’s meant to be imaginative and fun for young children.
But with painfully ugly special effects that show the anatomy of a mermaid growing on a young girl right before your eyes, the film becomes deeply uncomfortable to watch, leaving me shying away from the screen at some of its most graphic moments.
Of course, this is a kids’ movie, so there’s nothing particularly offensive or X-rated, but the insinuation is almost impossible to ignore, and that makes it a deeply unpleasant film to watch.
I really didn’t think that I’d be criticising this film for its scenes of graphic nature, but along with its utterly non-sensical plot, middling performances and generally poor production, it’s a horribly uncomfortable watch throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 2.8 overall.