If it is remembered for nothing else, “What Lies Below” has bragging rights for the creepiest, ickiest menstrual moment in recent movie history.
So take a bow, writer-director Braden R. Duemmler. Add that to the sizzle reel and the resume. And tell your Mom I said so.
But there’s no writing this thriller off that easily, because Duemmler over-the-tops that scene with the very next one, a pervy sneak and sniff (literally) around the shower as our teen heroine (Ema Horvath of TV’s “Don’t Look Deeper”) soaps up and our villain, given a go-for-the-gusto weirdness by Trey Tucker, lays it on thick.
Here’s one you should go into as blind as I did. It’d be easy to categorize “What Lies Below” and spoil some of the fun in so doing. So let’s not. Let’s just dip into the set-up and let the twists make your jaw drop, your eyes roll and give you the giggles as it does. For a genre pic, this is that “out there.”
Horvath plays a a 16 year-old freshly home from archeology camp, resisting all the eager “so happy to have you home” neediness her Mom (Mena Suvari) can throw her way. Good luck with that, because Mom has some “news.” And there he is — cut, ripped and dripping wet as he slo-mo wades out of the lake at their summer cottage.
Virginal Liberty, “Libby” or “Libs,” utters the first words that come to her hormonal mind.
John (Iwata) is a researcher, dipping into the lake, running experimental tanks in the basement, and a bit pedantic. He gives Libby a bracelet and includes a long story about its origins and significance. He talks about lampreys, salinity levels and uses the phrase “We’re both scientists” to the college-bound teen to flatter her.
“You’re kind of weird,” she offers, before slipping off to her bedroom to take stock of her state of “womanhood.” Ahem.
Not that Mom would notice. She’s “psycho girlfriend” in love with the younger man, and the noise from their bedroom speaks, well, volumes.
It’s just that John’s “weird” side means giving the girl the side-eye and putting out a stalker/creeper/pervert vibe.
Libs? She has no idea, but she starts to get one.
There’s a lot of information and very little explanation packed into these 87 compact minutes, just the way we like it. Over-explaining snuffs the life out of thrillers like this.
Horvath is aptly incredulous, slow to lurch from suspicion and fury to fear and frantic flight.
Suvari bubbles and flirts and does the horny Mom thing with verve.
And Tucker (“The Space Between Us”) sells this guy, first “weird” frame to last. Maybe he’s remembering Steve McQueen got his start in just such a “feature.”
For a dumb genre pic, “What Lies Below” is as goofy and fun as it is wet and…weird. Don’t spoiler alert your friends, let the ogles and giggles surprise them as much as it will you.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, sexual situations, icky stuff galore
Cast: Ema Horvath, Trey Tucker and Mena Suvari
Credits: Scripted and directed by Braden R. Duemmler. A Vertical release on Netflix.
Running time: 1:27