What Lies Below
What Lies Below is the feature debut of Braden R Duemmler (cinematographer of Snoop Dogg’s GGN web series), and follows a classic Uncle Charlie premise (the well-worn template provided by the enigmatic villain of Hitchcock’s brilliant Shadow of a Doubt, used to notably great effect in Park Chan-Wook’s under-appreciated thriller Stoker). The narrative centres around standoffish 16-year-old Libby Wells (Emma Horvath, distractingly older than her character), who returns home from camp to find that her mother Michelle (Mena Suvari) has a mysterious new man in her life called John Smith (Trey Tucker). How his suspiciously banal name doesn’t raise any red flags in the mother-daughter duo’s minds is anyone’s guess.
Halfway through the film, Libby becomes wary of the handsome chap when she follows him outside in the dead of the night and watches him completely submerge himself into a lake and reappear behind her moments later. Smith’s good looks – the sole reason to have hired Tucker for the role, since he fails to provide evidence of any acting talent – spellbind the Wells family for long enough for him to initiate his twisted plan. Spoilers will be avoided here, but suffice to say the filmmaker does commendable work in the second half for a satisfyingly gnarly climax. To provide some hints, it crosses into the territory of torture porn and sci-fi.
Nonetheless, the film’s fundamentals are too weak to merit a recommendation. The acting is seriously shoddy, and it’s impossible to be invested in the dynamic when the performers lack any chemistry with one another. Tucker’s absurd attempts at creepy are either unintentionally hilarious or plain cringeworthy, and Ema Horvath appears to be too bored to play the scream queen. This is her second rodeo in the genre, following The Gallows: Act II, and it’s no coincidence that neither film is scary, both failing to put the heroine in believable peril. Furthermore, Libby and Michelle provide plenty of ammunition for anti-horror audiences, as they join a long list of the genre’s protagonists who continually make stupid decisions.
Then there’s the cheap televisual look, which imbues the What Lies Below with a Lifetime channel veneer. It must be said that a substandard, basic cable horror flick is pretty much exactly what’s promised when its title is a blatant rip-off of a bona fide hit, but viewers are better off revisiting Robert Zemeckis’s supernatural shocker What Lies Beneath instead.
What Lies Below is released digitally on demand on 22nd February 2021.
Watch the trailer for What Lies Below here: