Starring: Dennis Hopper, Linda Lawson, Gavin Muir, Luana Anders
DIR: Curtis Harrington
Blurb: A young man visiting a seaside town falls for a pretty girl performing in a local carnival act as a mermaid. The young woman has had her troubles in the past with suitors leading some people to warn the young man. The young woman believes herself to be descended from a race of ancient mermaids and is forced to kill during a full moon but things may not be as they seem.
Scene 01: We open on watching gentle waves breaking on a sandy beach. The soundtrack sounds like its composed of a single clarinet.
Scene 02: We see a sailor standing on a boardwalk looking out in thought. The sailor is smoking and gazing under the continuing credits. He spins on his heel and walks back toward the boardwalk shops.
Scene 03: Walk, walk. He enters a shop and gets on a weighing carny-thingie. Credits-credits-credits.
Commentary: Young Dennis Hopper doesn't look too shabby in the sailor's outfit, I have to say.
Scene 04: Next stop is a photo booth. Credits-credits-credits.
Scene 05: Young Dennis Hopper continues down the boardwalk, until he comes to the Blue Grotto jazz club. We take a few moments to leave him outside, while the POV sweeps the crowd scene, leaving camera shadows on everyone as we pass by.
Young Dennis Hopper comes into the club and surveys the scene. He seems a bit nervous and I feel like I should buy him a beer.
Having gotten his own, and lit up a cigarette, he finds himself a seat to enjoy the jazz music, still looking self-conscious and uneasy.
Commentary: "Relax, cutie. Everyone is friendly in jazz clubs," I say to him. I don't really know if this is true, not having hung out in many jazz clubs myself, but since no one else is dialoging, I figured somebody should say something to move this scene forward.
Young Dennis Hopper ignores me. Story of my life.
Scene 06: He scans the floor, though if he's looking at anything in particular I do not know, since he isn't talking to anyone.
We scan the patrons again as the light, jazzy music plays on. The amount of smoking going on is giving me black lung, while I watch.
Young Dennis Hopper spots a lovely brunette bopping to the jazzy tune, sitting alone, and his interest is immediately piqued.
Commentary: Young Dennis Hopper has a gorgeous mouth.
Scene 07: Young Dennis Hopper leaves the bench and invites himself to sit down at her table, using the excuse that he could only see the musicians' backs from his bench.
Commentary: I sigh. Another handsome, young man in a uniform ignores me and walks off to hit on somebody else. Ah, well.... I sort of having it coming for trying to flirt with straight men in a club in the 1960's when I'm sitting in front of my computer in 2011.
Scene 08: He tries to engage her in conversation, but she responds that she'd like to listen to the jazz combo playing, please.
Commentary: I feel a brief and bitchy sense of "HAH!" at him for his ignoring me. But, I also wonder just how long this combo is going to be playing. Our female by the way is beautiful and I love her gown. I would like them to get on with the story, though, which I'm sure is going to happen if they get up and go for a walk, so... let's just do that.
Young Dennis Hopper tries to buy her a drink, but she declines... twice. Meanwhile, we spot another woman who comes into the club. This woman is in a black dress, and she shares a glare with our white-gowned woman. Young Dennis Hopper notes the change in mood of our white-gown, and turns in his seat to see black-dress walking over to white-gown's table.
(I'd like to tell you their names, but we haven't gotten introductions yet, and my internet has been bouncing for two days. At the moment it's down again, so I can't check IMDB.)
Black-dress says something to white-gown in a foreign language, which causes white-gown to shake her head in the negative. Black-gown gives her a "uh-huh, I don't quite believe you" glance, says something else in her not-English, and strolls away. Young Dennis Hopper asks questions that really aren't any of his business, since he doesn't even know white-gown's name or anything. She blows him off and tosses a few bills on the table, asking him to see to it her bill gets paid and then rushes off.
Young Dennis Hopper calls after her, but she continues on to the exit of the club. Instead of shrugging it off, he chases after her (Wow, dude -- get a clue. She wasn't interested).
Scene 09: He stops at the door, just before his exit, to exchange mysterious and sullen looks with the black-dressed woman. Outdoors, he sees white-gown hurrying up the quiet street and chases after her.
Scene 10: She hears him running after her and spins on her heel to confront him. She asks why he's following her and he explains that he doesn't know how to reach her or anything, with her having rushed out so fast. He tells her he'd like to see her again.
Commentary: AGAIN?! YOU WEREN'T SEEING HER, SHE WAS IGNORING YOU, PSYCHO. I'm suddenly very relieved that I hadn't gotten to buy Young Dennis Hopper a beer and that he ignored me from his 1960's jazz club.
She turns him down flat, but he asks that she let him talk to her for a little while.
Commentary: Owie, some Young Dennis Hopper awkward acting going on here. But, he really does have a lovely smile.
Despite the creeper vibe coming off of him, she gets just a trace flirty. He's all smiles and "let me walk with you for a bit" and she relents because he's smiling and because he's in that sexy sailor uniform that seems to highlight his crotch in a nice manner (I'm totally *crushing* on Young Dennis Hopper ... didn't see that one coming! Of course, it's helping immensely that his sailor pants are like a size too small, so everything is so *eye-catching*.).
Scene 11: They're walking now on the seaside boardwalk, in which the storefronts are closed for the night and the place is quiet and deserted. Our mysterious girl takes him to where she lives, and we find out it is in a carousel building. She has an apartment above the ride.
Hey, names! So Young Dennis Hopper has gone from YDH, to John. And, mysterious woman is Mora... except she introduces herself by saying "I am called Mora", which is a really weird way to give someone your name. Clearly, there is something off here (which may or may not explain why I'm finding her presentation of her dialog oddly flat, too).
John tries to invite himself upstairs, because G-Damn, But He's Creepy!
Commentary: Owie. Also, not a best line delivery in the world... plus, I swear he nearly blew the line and this should have been re-shot!
John lays a kiss on her cheek that is a bit passionate for somebody who just learned her name (I really hope that either he's the monster, or that he's under a spell of some sort, because he's really creeping me out... run, Mora, lock the door!).
Commentary: Also, both of their line deliveries are weird. His for being awkward and clumsy and her for being flat and lifeless. What is going on with these actors?! Also, Dennis smiles in profile, and he has vampire fangs. I hadn't noticed that before... maybe that's why Mora reacted the way she did to his leaning in toward her. But, seriously, the acting here is really hampering this scene, along with the fact that he's all over her, but I don't think it is supposed to be coming off like he's a Wolf-on-Leave, so much as he's supposed to be instantly infactuated. It's not working.
Dragging out the scene further, he finally convinces her to see him again for a late breakfast and they part, with him dancing to himself dizzy-in-instant-love in the drifting mist coming off the sea.
Commentary: So, you'd think that this is where this too long and awkwardly acted scene would end and we'd cut to being with John late that night thinking about her, or the following day. But, no. Instead we watch John some more balancing on the boardwalk railing. Why? End this scene, already!
Scene 12: The next morning, John arrives for his breakfast meet-up with Mora. He runs into the man that opens up the carousel and invites himself in to look at the wonderful carved horses on the ride. Carnie has a granddaughter named Ellen that helps him manage the business.
John excuses himself to go up to Mora, but this causes Carnie-Guy to act odd. He mentions that he hasn't seen John hanging around before and asks if he had just met her. His tone of voice is really odd though, and John lies that he's known Mora for a while, as he gives a "What is this odd vibe, you're suddenly giving off" face at him.
They take a bit too long to finally say good bye to one another, with Carnie looking off after him with an inscrutable, wondering look.
Scene 13: John goes upstairs, and we see every foot step.
Commentary: Apparently, having scenes stretched out for a few seconds too long to increase the run time is going to be a common thing around here, so I'll stop taking up space mentioning it. We're just going to have to deal with this slight, but cumulative-effect, pacing issue.
Scene 14: Mora has breakfast prepared and invites him onto the balcony.
Commentary: OH MY GOD, I WANT TO LIVE HERE. She has the most awesome view looking out over the ocean... and she has a balcony on top of the fantastic view from her dining room?! I'm totally in love with her apartment. Please, let's spend much more time here gazing from windows.
Mora and Johnny sit for "breakfast" and she serves him fish with his coffee *ack*. He's a little taken aback by this, but plays the gentleman about it. She's very enthusiastic about her love for ocean food, which he finds amusing and charming. They talk more, and Mora reveals that she works as a mermaid on the pier. Conversation turns to John's back story in which he reveals the loss of his mother and his plans to see the world. That is why he joined the Navy, although apparently, he hasn't seen much of it yet and has been a bit disappointed.
Next seagulls fly overhead, which fascinates Mora. She tells him that they're attracted to the food on his plate and she's all smiles as they both watch the birds fly nearby.
One of these birds gets bold enough to actually land on the table in front of her and she scoops it up and cuddles it, to John's amazement. She expositions that she doesn't remember how she learned to handle the wild birds the way she does, but she was born on an island, so probably picked up the skill as a child.
Scene 15: A bit later, John and Mora are walking hand in hand on the boardwalk. She points out an advertisement for herself showing her as Mora the Mermaid. She takes him to work with her, and he spends time chatting with her boss, Captain Sam Murdoch as she is off getting into her costume.
Captain Sam makes veiled references to an interesting story about how he came to have found Mora and brought her to America, which he offers to share sometime with John.
Mora calls out that she's ready, so John goes in to check out her job, while Sam begins his barker duties.
Scene 16: John looks down at Mora, who is apparently lying at the bottom of a tank of water in her fish tail and combing out her hair. Now, she told John during their breakfast that she pretends to be in a tank of water as part of the act.
Commentary: And, since our John POV-cam definitely shows "looking down through water" visual effects, I hope we're going to get a plausible explanation for this so it isn't a complete cheat (we don't). Also, a lot this Mora plot seems very much like the remake of "She Creature", which I had actually planned on making my next movie review, before sticking with the 'Night Screams' collection. That is going to be my next color movie review... so now I think I must do it next. It makes me wonder if the director of that 'She Creature' had seen this movie and it inspired the beginning scenes, where we see the faux-mermaid doing an act very much like Mora's here, also apparently using lighting and trickery to simulate water for the audience.
Scene 17: We fade to sometime later (which I believe is the following week, or a few weeks later -- John's next liberty) as John arrives on a bus and Mora is there to meet him.
She greets him warmly and they walk away arm in arm, so they must have worked out.
Commentary: Yeah, it's a bit of a clumsy transition. Also, we're over the 22 minute mark and so far the closest we've come to a 'Night Scream', is John's semi-stalker vibe in the beginning. Wasn't there a strange woman who had upset Mora so? Wasn't there a mystery surrounding Mora's presence? Wasn't there a possible monster somewhere around here...? Please?
Scene 18: Mora and John spend time cavorting on the beach and sitting in the sun. John turns conversation to Sam, who he describes as a 'sort of funny old guy', though we haven't seen anything to justify such a remark.
Commentary: And Dennis looks like he's flailing around to find something to keep his hands occupied on. Relax, dude. Just sit there and recite your lines, you're distracting me from Linda's dialogue.
John tries to get more details from Mora over Sam's background and how she knows him, exactly. Mora tells him more of her back story. She was an orphan on Mykenos when Sam found her and became her guardian, saving her from being alone. They canoodle.
Scene 19: That night, they attend a jazzy beach party. The jazz combo who was at the club is playing, and the lead of the group knows Mora by name. He calls her out to dance for them to his smooth, bongo-inspired beats.
And then she does... for a long time.
Finally, we see that woman that had upset her in the club back. She's standing quite a distance away, and then she's suddenly standing with the other party attenders and staring at Mora. Mora starts feeling weird and upset and just as John notices the strange woman, Mora collapses onto the sand.
John asks her if it was the woman, but Mora claims not to know who he's speaking of. When he looks up to point her out, she's gone....
Scene 20: The following day, John comes back to the carousel, where he has coffee with the owner's daughter and a fortune teller. It's a relatively pointless scene, until a police lieutenant drops by. We find out, through circling-around-it-talk for no apparent reason except to be mysterious, that something has happened recently and the police don't have many clues about whatever it is.
Commentary: And also, we learn that carousel owner and police detective are horrible at acting coy... just horrible.
After the detective leaves, John asks what is going on. Ellen tells him that he was there asking about Mora. It seems that in the past two years, Mora had two boyfriends and both of them drowned mysteriously. The police haven't been able to find any proof of foul play, but everyone on the boardwalk is suspicious of her. She's interrupted by a trio of kids wanting to ride.
At the same time, a call comes through on the payphone there and when owner answers, it's for John -- except no one is supposed to know he's there.
When he answers, he hears a loud click and no one is on the line. But, passing by the carousel building is the mysterious woman in black who Mora seems to find so upsetting.
John excuses himself, getting a card from the tealeaf reader before he goes and an invite to stop by later for a card reading. He takes off after the woman in black (and Dennis stumbles while running down the ramp, and nearly falls on his face).
Commentary: So, we're now over 34 minutes in and we're just now getting to a mystery involving Mora. A mystery revealed via an ill-scripted data dump. I'm failing to understand why IMDB has this as an over 6 rating.
Scene 21: John catches up to the woman in black and follows her as she heads across the beach...
Commentary: ... to a completely inappropriately light musical cue ... we're heading into John trying to figure out who this woman is and why she has such an effect on Mora and instead of getting a soundtrack that would be mysterious or subdued, we get something you'd expect if they were frollicking in the surf, instead.
It is a very long walk. Partway through, the woman in black peeks at her pocket watch in her purse, before continuing to walk, walk, walk.
Scene 22: FINALLY, we reach a part of town, or another town, that seems to be a poor neighborhood. John rounds a corner, only to discover that woman in black has vanished from view. In fact, there is no one but him on the streets for a moment.
Commentary: This is a nice, moody shot by the director.
He then sees a little girl in the middle of a road, holding a doll. He asks if she saw a woman pass by, but the girl shakes her head 'no'. She then walks away, leaving John alone again. He looks for the woman in black, but the only movement around him is a rocking chair in front of a boarded up building.
From his pocket, John finds a card with Captain Sam's address on it. We're in a poor section of Venice, it seems. He notices movement in an apartment above the boarded up pub, or restaurant, or whatever the building used to be. It is Sam's place, and he rings his doorbell.
Scene 23: Captain Sam greets him warmly and bids him to enter. Sam and John talk about Mora some more, continuing their conversation from in front of the mermaid tent weeks earlier.
Samual talks and talks about how difficult what he wants to say is to put into words, stretching this scene out for too long, also, like every scene has been.
Captain Sam finally tells John that he's in terrible danger, if he keeps seeing Mora (which he apparently wasn't going to mention, if John hadn't of happened to follow woman in black here, and happened to have thought about the card with Sam's address on it in his pocket, and hadn't happened to decide to look him up... what an asshat). John takes this as a threat, but Sam clarifies that he's in danger from Mora, herself.
Sam sends John to a cabinet for a bottle of booze and while in there, John is startled by a hand in a jar. Sam explains it as a souvenir from Arabia -- the hand of a thief. John asks how he came to have it and Sam tells him a Sultan sent it to him, since he knew of his interest in collecting unusual artifacts.
Commentary: And, none of this has anything to do with Mora, or what Captain Sam believes about his ward. For crike's sake, can we please get to the mystery/threat in this story.
After more stalling, Captain Sam finally reveals that Mora came from a race of mer-people. He hadn't known that when he found her, but in the years since, he's come to believe it to be true. John tries to find out about the woman in black, but Captain Murdoch has fallen into a drunken sleep.
Scene 24: John takes the opportunity to go up to Mora's childhood room, but we don't see anything out of the ordinary, before the POV drifts out an open window and we fade cut to Mora.
Scene 25: She's standing at her balcony, staring out at the sea. John had returned and told her what he discussed with Sam. Mora tells him that she didn't want him to know, and asks if it means he won't see her again. John assures her that he didn't believe what Sam said, but she insists that not only is it true, but that the other mer-folk are waiting for her to return to them. She also shares that the woman in black is one of them, and that she's been sent to convince Mora to return to the sea.
Johnny tries to convince her that she's been filled with wrong ideas about herself and that things like mermaids can't happen in the real world, but she's convinced that the sea is calling out to her to return to it. She admits to being frightened all the time, but of course, he tells her that they'll work it out.
Scene 26: The next morning, John (and by this point, it seems that everyone has given up any notion that John actually has to show up and do his job at the Navy) goes to Madame Romanovitch's for a reading and to discuss the problem with Mora.
The tarot reading reveals that Mora is caught in a "vortex of evil" and that John is in "grave danger".
Scene 27: After the disturbing visit to the psychic, John next goes and speaks with Ellen again. She apologizes for implying that Mora may be a multiple murderess, with no proof.
John tells Ellen that he's worried for Mora and doesn't know how to help her when she seems to believe what everyone is saying about her. Ellen thinks he means that Mora believes she did kill those two guys she was involved in, but John denies this. He can't bring himself to explain what he means though, since it sounds so ridiculous, even though he's kinda starting to half-believe it, as well (at least that there is something strange going on around Mora, if not that she's actually a mermaid).
Johnny decides to go for a walk, and thanks Ellen for listening to him. And, Ellen is giving off a definite vibe of wanting Johnny... she's standing a bit too close to him and looking up at him a bit too intensely, but he doesn't appear to notice.
Scene 28: Johnny spends a few moments staring out at the sea in thought.
Scene 29: That evening, he arrives at Mora's apartment as she is bathing. Because he complains of being so tired, Mora tells him to lie down for a while before dinner, which sounds like a good idea to him.
He lies down on the sofa.
Mora comes from the bathroom in only a towel and walks to him to sit down at his side. She starts to stroke his face and hair. His attention drifts down to her legs, only now they've become a fish tail. Mora forces his attention back to her face and then kisses him deeply, but suddenly her now-clawed hands become tentacles. Johnny is suddenly in the hold of an old ship, and an octopus is wrapped around him, trying to squeeze the life from him as he struggles with it.
Of course, this was all a dream. Johnny snaps himself awake, flailing around. He hears a gurgling sound comes from the bathroom and calls to Mora who doesn't respond. Getting up, he goes to the bathroom to check on her. He finds the bathroom empty, the sound being the tub draining. Her wet footprints lead out of the apartment, and he follows them out, mystified.
Scene 30: [Wow, the bottom of her feet must be leaking bodily fluids, because they're managing to leave footprints for an awfully long way.]
Mora's footprints lead him to the beach [where midway through we swap actual night shots for day-for-night shots that are horribly obvious]. He calls for her, but there isn't an answer and he doesn't see her at the shoreline. John walks under the pier and calls for her more, until finally he hears her call his name.
He finds her out in the water, standing against a pier strut. He rushes out and picks her up to carry her back to the sand, as she tells him that "they" were calling her.
Scene 31: The following morning, Johnny wakes up on the floor next to Mora's bed, where she's resting. He jokes with her that he's stiff all over from lying on the floor all night. She sends him off to get a massage, but he's at first afraid to leave her alone. She tells him that she'll be okay now that it isn't night.
After he leaves, Mora's sense of calm quickly passes and she glances around with fear at her apartment.
Scene 32: Johnny goes to the boardwalk bathhouse for his massage.
Sam, coincidentally, is also there for a steam. He reminds Johnny of their conversation and tells him that he's been worrying about him. Captain Sam asks John if Mora has been acting strangely lately. He lies and denies it. Sam warns him that he needs to be especially careful now that the full moon has arrived, because the tides will be calling to her especially fiercely now.
Scene 33: When Johnny returns to Mora's place, she tells him that she's been thinking hard about her journey into the ocean the night before. She tells him that she thinks she must have been walking in her sleep.
Mora is cleaning diving equipment and tells him that she'd like to take him diving later at a spot she knows where the tide will be perfect. John, despite wishing to just forget the incident of the night before, tells her it doesn't seem like a good idea and further asks her to rest. She's insistent that she doesn't want to rest, as she feels fine.
She gets her way, but it is obvious that John is worried about Sam's warning.
Scene 34: Scuba diving.
After they've reached the bottom, Mora reaches out for the knife strapped to John and throws it away. She then reaches over and yanks the breathing apparatus from his mouth. He makes a mad dash for the surface for air. Mora impassively watches.
Scene 35: As John hauls himself into the boat, distraught over what Mora nearly did to him, she's swims away. John sits in the boat, wrapped in a towel, for hours waiting for Mora to surface, but she never does.
Scene 36: That night, John is in his motel room, in the midst of a dream. Mora is sitting on the rocks in full-mermaid mode, brushing out her hair. John makes his way over the rocks to her. She sees him in her mirror and is startled.
Suddenly, she's waist high in the water and he's grasping her hand, trying to haul her out. He loses his grip on her hand, and she disappears below the breakers laughing.
He wakes up covered in sweat.
Scene 37: After daybreak, Johnny is sitting on the motel bed in a state. There is a knock at the door. It's just room service with the newspapers Johnny wanted. He brings them in and starts scanning for any news of Mora (I'm assuming).
He finds an article about the 20th anniversary of the boardwalk, in which Mora the Mermaid is mentioned, but that's all.
Scene 38: That night, he returns there. He's dressed in a long slicker with one hand jammed into a pocket. He makes his way to the Mermaid exhibit, where Captain Sam is barking. Glancing upward, he sees the full moon (stunt doubled by the sun) and storm clouds.
He tucks his face down so that Sam doesn't recognize him and pays the two bits to get in. Above, the lightning and thunder rolls in [reflecting John's internal emotional storm, of course -- how artsy].
John slowly makes his way to Mora's "tank". She's lying in water, staring up sightlessly and apparently dead?! Captain Sam then comes in, telling him that he knew her murderer would return eventually to the scene of his crime. He's holding a pistol on John.
Commentary: Wait, what? I thought that John was going to shoot her and that's why he had the hand jammed into the pocket of the slicker on his walk, over. But, it appears Mora is dead now, already. I didn't see that twist.
John denies doing anything to her, telling Sam that he loved her. He asks where he found her (whereas, I would be asking what he's doing with her dead body in a tank still playing mermaid).
Sam tries to shoot John, but he ducks behind the tank, which is hit dumping Mora's body out.
Scene 39: A pair of policemen are patrolling the now deserted boardwalk (due to the storm that is now in force). They arrive in the tent to see both Mora and Sam lying dead on the floor, and John standing suspiciously nearby.
Scene 40: Oops. Sam wasn't dead. We jump to the Venice police station, where Sam is making a statement to the police about what happened. He must have just been knocked out briefly by Mora's body tumbling on him.
Sam's statement turns into a confession. He claims that he couldn't face the thought of Mora leaving him as she grew up, so he poisoned her young and pliable mind with tales of the mermaids and how she would one day rejoin them, so she could never get involved in normal relationships with others. But, she turned out to be more independently minded than he should hope, so when she had gotten involved with the two boys prior to Johnny, he murdered them.
He then caused brainwashed Mora to believe that she'd done the deeds under influence from the seapeople. This caused her to become unbalanced. Sam guesses that she became distraught with the fear that she'd kill John next and decided to "embrace the rapture of the depths", and asks Johnny to confirm that is what happened. Not being a seaperson in reality, she drowned.
John agrees, and doesn't mention that she tried to drown him first in an apparent murder-suicide attempt. The Lieutenant asks after woman in black, who Sam claims not to know anything about. Sam is taken into custody. John is turned over to the harbor patrol, which confused me, until I saw the navy men waiting for him.
Ellen is also waiting for him, where she asks if there is anything she can do for him. She has another cup of coffee for him (everytime he sees her, she's pushing coffee on him) and tells him how sorry she is about Mora (and her performance is still odd to me -- I'm starting to wonder if she's actually the woman in black in a younger guise).
Commentary: Okay, why is Ellen still acting flirty, and why is this shot in a way that makes it feel like Johnny is flirting back?! It feels like they're setting up that he and Ellen may start dating... Mora is barely cold!
I also don't know why the harbor patrol is escorting Johnny ... I figured that he's spent so much time at the pier that he's over his leave and is being taken in as AWOL, but no one mentions that he's in trouble and they don't act like they're arresting him. I'm puzzled by their inclusion.
We end with a quote from Poe.
The Good: A lot of Young Dennis Hopper's torso and really tight sailor pants and shorts.
I liked Linda Lawson in the role of Mora, the possible mermaid.
I found a few of the plot turns interesting: Mora not being a monster and no monster clearly existent at all, she attempting to kill John and then committing suicide wasn't expected by me, the whole mermaid thing being a story by Sam to force her to be dependent on him [what a douchebag!] and his taking 'credit' for killing her two previous suitors [which I'm not sure he also isn't making up to protect his dead foster-daughter].
The Bad: Pacing is a real problem in nearly every scene. This could easily have had 20 minutes cut out of it and not lost anything. This would have made a much better short and the story felt like something from The Twilight Zone, stretched into feature length. The script simply can't support the length of time.
Speaking of... this script has problems, as well. This is more of a drama with a blush of mystery and the promise of horror that never comes. Much of dialog doesn't appear to serve any story point.
The role of the mysterious woman in black ends up unexplained and largely pointless. The role of Ellen is just weirdly put together... she's always pushing that damned coffee and acting like she wants to throw herself into John's arms, but it's all just sitting there going nowhere -- there isn't even enough there to be a subplot. They should have had her consistently pointing out how weird Mora was, or how suspicious she acts as a way to make us wonder if she was setting up Mora somehow or another, or that she was one of the merpeople herself before we find out that they really don't exist... her character just doesn't need to be in this story.
Other Thoughts: Because of the scripting, the ending doesn't really hang together well either. Things are given a possible half-explanation by Sam and the detective but it isn't satisfying. Neither is John's returning to shore from his near drowning and not going to report Mora's missing to the police. Johnny's whole stalking to the tent with a hand stuffed into his slicker pocket, like he intends to kill the mer-beast he believes now Mora is, only for it to be nothing is also unsatisfying. In fact, let's just shorthand it all by saying that this story is unsatisfying all around.
The Score: Blah. 2.50 out of 5