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Dive Into Dread: 6 Terrifying Mermaid Horror Movies 

These disturbing plots are making waves. 

a mermaid with razor teeth and long wet hair in a bathtub
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  • Photo Credit: Janus Films

The sea, with its unpredictable moods and unexplored depths, holds many secrets. There are times when it appears beautiful, even downright tranquil, as the enduring popularity of island vacations and oceanfront real estate can attest. 

But its deep, damp darkness also offers the perfect hiding place for all manner of horrors, from sinister shipwrecks and fabled lost cities to mysterious creatures that range from scientifically substantiated to decidedly mythological—and that means plenty of seaside horror on the silver screen.

When it comes to maritime monster movies, killer sharks may still take the biggest bite out of the popular imagination, but for those looking to dip a toe into less familiar waters, consider the malevolent mermaid. 

Mermaids (and mermen, their masculine counterparts) have traditionally been an object of erotic fascination for lonely sailors, but even at their most beautiful and benign, there is a threatening undercurrent to this legend.

Many mermaid tales end with their human admirers dashed lifeless against jagged rocks, or diving deep under dark waves in pursuit of their briny beloved. They are undeniably beguiling, but do mermaids mean us harm?

Here are six mermaid horror movies that answer with a resounding yes.

The Lure (2015)

What if I told you that there’s a female-directed horror-musical version of The Little Mermaid—the original, deeply tragic Hans Christian Andersen version—and that it’s violent and sexy and weird as hell?

This Polish film features a pair of siren sisters named Silver and Golden who work as strippers when they’re not singing in a band. One of the sisters is bloodthirsty and pragmatic, using their gigs to prey on unsuspecting audience members; the other is a romantic who falls hopelessly in love with their bass player.

Unsurprisingly, this situation doesn’t end well for anyone, except for viewers who prefer their mermaid tales served straight up, with a generous garnish of gore. 

Night Tide (1961)

In this strange and haunting story, a beautiful woman named Mora works as a sideshow mermaid at a tourist attraction on the Santa Monica Pier—and secretly believes that she just may be the real deal. Cult film auteur Curtis Harrington directs a very young Dennis Hopper, playing against future type as a sweet and guileless sailor on shore leave in Los Angeles. 

In addition to Hopper’s understated yet riveting performance and Harrington’s gorgeous black and white shots of LA’s decaying seaside communities in the early ‘60s, this film is notable for featuring Marjorie Cameron—artist, occultist, and widow of Pasadena’s own notoriously ill-fated rocket scientist Jack Parsons—in a wordless yet unforgettable role.  

Blue My Mind (2017)

Every mermaid story incorporates elements of body horror, but this Swiss film cranks the intensity up and uses an adolescent girl’s discovery of her true aquatic nature as an analog of puberty.

After Mia starts her period, she begins to notice strange and unwelcome changes in her body—like her toes fusing together, and an uncontrollable craving for fish. Can she overcome her piscine nature, or will she learn that some changes are irreversible?

What Ginger Snaps did for the werewolves-as-menstruation metaphor, this movie does for mermaids.  

She Creature (2001)

Two carnies who kidnap a real-life mermaid for use in their sideshow act get more than they bargain for when they smuggle her onboard a ship in this tale of a sinister sea creature with mind control abilities—the power to transform into a human when the moon is full, and an insatiable appetite for sailors.

She also boasts the ability to bestow fertility on women who are having trouble conceiving by possessing their bodies during sex, which creates a concerning situation for one of the kidnappers when his seemingly infertile wife suddenly finds herself pregnant after they set sail with their carnivorous cargo. 

Dagon (2001)

Based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, this Spanish horror movie offers a twist on the typical mermaid tale with its story of four vacationing friends who find themselves marooned in a seaside village where Christianity has been supplanted by the worship of an undersea demon named Dagon.

Their religious recalibration may have brought them prosperity, but at a terrible price—because Dagon also requires human women to breed, leading to the creation of a terrifying race of half-human, half-fish monsters.

Spending a summer by the sea in Spain never looked so unappealing. 

Mamula (2014)

Also known by the alternate titles Nymph, Dark Sea, and the admirably straightforward Killer Mermaid, this movie offers another terrifying take on a seaside vacation gone violently awry.

When two young women set out to explore a former prison island in the Caribbean called Mamula, despite being warned away from it, they discover the lair of a—you guessed it!—killer mermaid, who lives in the murky depths beneath an old military fortress.

Can they escape, or will the mermaid’s siren song lure them to their watery doom beneath the waves?