‘Fear comes to the surface’
What Lies Below is a 2020 American mystery thriller film about a teenage girl who is suspicious about her mother’s hunky young fiancé.
Written and directed by Braden R. Duemmler – making his feature debut – the DRF Productions movie stars Ema Horvath, Mena Suvari (Apparition; Don’t Blink; Day of the Dead 2008; The Rage: Carrie 2), Haskiri Velazquez and Trey Tucker (The Space Between Us). Produced by Kristina Esposito, Stephen Stanley and Abel Vang.
Liberty (Ema Horvath), a socially awkward sixteen-year-old, returns from two months at camp to a blindsided introduction of her mother’s (Mena Suvari) hunky young fiancé, John Smith (Trey Tucker), whose charm, intelligence, and beauty paint the picture of a man too perfect to be human. Is he something else…?
With What Lies Below, Suvari seems to have accepted she’s a B-movie maven like Mischa Barton now, which is best for everyone involved. Suvari actually puts energy into her enthusiastic mother persona, although the “baby girl” endearment she incessantly applies to Liberty grows old in a hurry. Ema Horvath is as good as she can be as Liberty.” Culture Crypt
“Although it is an entertaining thriller overall, What Lies Below takes on a bit more than it can handle. The film never quite comes into its own, jumping shakily back and forth between different themes and schemes […] While it falls quite flat in many areas, there’s still enough of that Classic Universal Monster, teen-horror nostalgia to make it enjoyable […] It’s images and themes don’t all come together in the end, but the ridiculousness makes it that much more fun.” Diary of Spectator
” …it is decently made, competently acted by the cast and sports a nice spin on a well-worn plot. Yet, due to its lack of a satisfying pay off (again, likely due to budget limitations) after so much build-up, coupled with its flawed script, I am left strangely disappointed with it. It has an intriguing story to tell and maybe with a quick re-write and a bigger budget, perhaps, it could have been something great.” Flickering Myth
“You might find enough giggles in this stupendously silly coming-of-age horror to keep yourself amused. But, honestly, it’s not really funny enough to be enjoyably bad [….] The denouement when it comes is meant to be shriek of pure sci-fi horror; but really, you’d find better entertainment – and more energetic acting – watching a fish tank.” The Guardian
“If you like indie movies that mix genres in all the best ways, then do check out What Lies Below. You’ll get character-driven drama along with thriller, sci-fi, and horror. All wrapped up in a mystery that will be unveiled exactly as much as needed.” Heaven of Horror
“Usually, when someone tries to please everyone — whether in life or with movies — they often wind up pleasing few, but What Lies Below serves up enough head-scratching moments (in the good way) and unexpected reveals to make it a recommended watch for fans of aquatic horror, science-fiction horror, and other subgenres that I don’t want to spoil here.” Horror Fuel
“The finer details of what Liberty sees and her mother does not is what ups the ante in a good way. John’s calm and insistent nature, his smooth tenor, and his ability to mesmerize Michelle makes Liberty look and feel like a jealous daughter. The audience sees what Liberty sees, however, and there is no mistaking that John is not normal. This is what saves the narrative from being just a story about who is telling the truth.” Mother of Movies
“Mena Suvari and Ema Horvath, as expected, do excellent jobs as the mother and daughter. But the real surprise was the fairly unknown Tucker […] What Lies Below is an enjoyable creature feature that just falls a bit short of its potential. I’d have loved to have seen John’s true form. And a bit more background on their origins would have been a big help. But it’s still effective and builds to an ending that stayed in my head for a while.” Voices from the Balcony
“While the acting is quite well worth seeing, the visual effects are done quite well. We slowly see signs of John’s real identity and the most interesting aspect of the sci-fi elements is the use of nature, noticeably the lake. When we see the light emit from the lake in the pivotal scene that changes the game, it’s well done as well as the little bits of John’s true identity being displayed and if that’s not crazy, just wait until the final 15 minutes of the film as they are quite shocking and possibly leave room for a potential sequel.” World Film Geek
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In the US, Vertical Entertainment and XYZ Films will release What Lies Below on VOD on December 4th 2020.
In the UK, Signature Entertainment releases What Lies Below on Digital Platforms on 22nd February 2021.
Cast and characters:
Mena Suvari … Michelle Wells
Ema Horvath … Liberty
Haskiri Velazquez … Marley
Trey Tucker … John Smith
Troy Iwata … Tommy
Danny Corbo … Young Tommy
Olan Montgomery … Clerk
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