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  What Lies Below Who's Your Baddie?
Year: 2020
Director: Braden R. Duemmler
Stars: Ema Horvath, Mena Suvari, Trey Tucker, Haskiri Velazquez, Troy Iwata, Olan Montgomery
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Liberty Wells (Ema Horvath) is a moody sixteen-year-old with a passion for archaeology, which is why she has been attending this summer camp, but now it is over and her mother Michelle (Mena Suvari) arrives to pick her up. As they drive back to the lakeside house they inherited from Libby's grandfather, Michelle does her best to buoy her daughter's mood, because there is something she is not telling her that becomes very obvious once they draw up to their destination and get out to survey the lake. Someone is emerging, someone very buff and handsome, someone Michelle announces as her new boyfriend, John Smith (Trey Tucker), and Libby is immediately conflicted: he is certainly good-looking, and a scientist to boot, but is he too good to be true?

If that sounds like something out of a teenage girl's young adult novel, then you're not far off since that appeared to be a conscious decision, but if you were aware this was a horror movie, you might have a different expectation from What Lies Below - and that title and opening sequence would alert you anyway. If you remember that eighties slasher movie cult favourite The Stepfather then you would be along the right lines, except in this, that suspicion of the daughter for her mother's new beau was transformed into something more akin to a Lovecraftian shocker. The fact that you would be ahead of the characters could have been a drawback, yet as it unfolded that forewarning developed into a pleasingly shivery, creepy item that was well aware you were well aware.

This added a note of complicity for the audience with the movie, not that we were yelling at the screen to Libby to get the hell out of there, though that would have been sensible advice, more enjoying the atmosphere of building dread, that despite it featuring a conclusion that did not explain as much as some would like. All you really needed to know was there was some kind of experiment going on, since as John likes to remind Libby, he is a scientist, as if that excuses all sorts of abuses. On that subject, the unwelcome possibility that he was using Michelle to get to her daughter had echoes of abusive partners who take advantage of situations in a sexual manner, but that did not transpire as John's goal, his dedication was to his laboratory in the basement, which is ostensibly to study lampreys taken from the lake.

It's all about dwindling freshwater versus the encroaching saltwater, a real world concern, for the studly boffin, so he could pass for an environmentalist, yet as Libby discovers, he could also do a pretty good impersonation of a pervert, the first indication that all is not right with Mr Right. As Michelle announces an engagement, John has taken her offspring out onto the lake in a dinghy, and when she has a menstrual accident, his reaction is unpleasant, to say the least, only he keeps up his fa├žade of decency which is slipping ever more. What Lies Below (not to be confused with Robert Zemeckis's What Lies Beneath) was a slow burn in the main, but once the finale showed up it went agreeably bonkers, assuming you did not mind a heavy dose of nastiness where not everyone got what they wanted. There were grim laughs, the mother-daughter relationship was believable, if a tad soap opera, and performances all round were accomplished, just the right side of camp. It would never be a blockbuster, but it entertained on its modest, absorbing level. Music by Gavin Keese.

[Signature Entertainment presents What Lies Below on Digital Platforms 22nd February 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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