What Lies Below (2020), Mena Suvari, (Horror Movie Review)

What Lies Below (2020), Mena Suvari, (Horror Movie Review)
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PLOT: A teenager returns from camp to find out her mom has been banging a stud half her age. I'm all for loving the life you live, but things seem too good to be true as her new eye candy may not be human at all.

LOWDOWN: What Lies Below (WATCH IT HERE) tells the story of an awkward teen named Liberty (Ema Horvath) who's going to the family cabin for the weekend with her Mom, Michelle (Mena Suvari).  As a surprise to Liberty, her new boy toy John Smith (Trey Tucker), is invited to bond and hopefully gain her approval. As wholesome as that sounds, its biggest strength is that it spends half of its runtime knee-deep in the tone of classic erotic thrillers of the early '90s. John Smith (nothing suspicious about that name) spends most of the film with his shirt off even when it would benefit from being covered up. There is a level of cheese that this is aware of, like this creature, like Natasha Henstridge from Species, is here to seduce and f*ck and doesn't try to be the least bit subtle about it.

Mena Suvari surprised me with this layered and depressing performance. I've never seen her in anything that wasn't comedic-led, and she does fantastic as Liberty's tragic mom. In her early forties, and who never got over her father's indifference to her, Michelle clings to this buff Abercrombie model as the only thing that's given her attention. That and this dude is far above her paygrade, and she knows it. This is a smart way to have the mom ignore obvious warning signs as she's "Got this thing and it's f*king golden, and she's not just giving it up for f*cking nothing." as the wise Blagojevich once said. Ema Horvath nails the awkward and uncomfortable teen years as Liberty. Even as she finds John odd, she's so attracted to him (with him engaging back)that I half expected this to get REAL KINKY... it does not.

The sexual tension is full force and brought me back to the days of these types of '90sthrillers except here; there is a sci-fi bent that turns everything on its head. What Lies Below has its first half in the retro thrillers like The Stepfather and Wild Things, while the second half shifts gears into our current time's survival science fiction and does so in a way that gives this a leg-up against high budgeted films. It's suspenseful, erotic, and weird in all of the right places. There's a scene (ruined in the trailer) where Liberty is showering, and John comes in (shirtless, of course), and he smells her clothes and stands outside the curtain. Not only was it creepy and uncomfortable, but it goes on longer than anything more mainstream would allow. It's A beautiful scene that gets under your skin and what I love about What Lies Below.  At its best, it's suspenseful, yet erotic and slightly off.

Any issues? Once this gets into its sci-fi roots, Braden R. Duemmler keeps things mostly vague and offscreen. It has a tinge of artsy that didn't quite fit the rest of the film, and they hint at creature effects but never went full throttle. I'll assume that things mostly implied rather than shown for budgetary reasons, but it sorta deflates the idea that there was to be a big reveal or something of the sort. I'm ok with a lack of answers, but this leaves a lot unanswered and can be frustrating, and I can see some leaving unsatisfied. It's not a deal-breaker but hurt more than it helped.

GORE: No blood or gore here. Things can get a bit gross but What Lies Below isn't about the kill scenes of mutilated bodies.

BOTTOM LINE: What Lies Below isn't anything groundbreaking and, for the most part, you can see where things are headed, but in a way, this is classic b-movie material elevated with excellent directing and a stellar cast. What Lies Below gets under your skin. It is a great mix of an erotic thriller and a sci-fi creature feature.

What Lies Below Lands on VOD December 4th.

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