What Lies Below follows a socially awkward girl who meets her mother's new hunky boyfriend at their secluded cabin by a lake. Despite her physical attraction to him, the girl finds him unsettlingly odd, and he just may be housing some dark secrets and sinister intentions for her mother.
What Lies Below Review
While elements of a creature feature aren't heavy in the trailer, the subtle nods were enough to grab my attention and get me somewhat excited for this movie despite lackluster word-of-mouth early on. Sexually oriented thrillers aren't really in my wheelhouse, as they tend to struggle to be nothing more than exploitive. While I think this movie rides the fence in this regard, it also doesn't dive deep enough into its unnatural/creature/scifi concepts, especially in the final act.
The build of this movie is well-constructed, but very familiar and formulaic. Girl questions mom's new mysterious boyfriend. She snoops. She finds reasons to suspect him of foul play. Boyfriend catches on to girl's suspicions. Psychological game of cat-and-mouse ensues. All of it has been done a hundred times before. I will say that there were a handful of scenes that I thought were well written, performed, and shot, adding to the subtle evil of the boyfriend. But it really is all just about getting to the final act and the big reveal, which was, sadly, underwhelming.
That isn't to say the final act is completely worthless. It kicks off with a bang of a scene, but the spark dwindles from there to a whimper and closes out with concepts that are interesting, but inevitably disappointing because we don't get enough depth to the happenings and certainly don't get enough to witness visually.
Still, there are some cleverly shot moments with effective sound design that made me smile and stick my eyes to the screen. I was sad to see it eventually culminate into something disappointing, but things were going really well up to that point. The power of the film lies in the well-executed promises of something big coming down the line, and while it's not as disappointing as some scenarios that dismiss their first two acts, the final act just left me wanting a lot more, and not in the form of a franchise. The movie just falls short, literally.
I do want to commend the acting, directing and writing for the most part. It had me engaged despite the unoriginality of the structure. I was still wanting to see what exactly was up with this weird boyfriend and all the little nuanced elements of scifi horror we get along the way. It teases you in just the right ways to keep you interested and curious, and the characters feed off of that energy.
But at the end of the day, I wanted more. The world building comes way too late into the film and the reveals just simply aren't enough. It's like the climax of Jaws just being the fin breaking the surface. At some point, most films just need that 40-ft shark launching its body onto the boat to swallow someone whole. Too bad mini-momoa was too busy showing off his abs and sexy Blue Steel face.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10 Horror Quality: 5/10 Film Quality: 5/10