Saturday, September 11, 2021

Movie Reviews: What Lies Below

What Lies Below
directed by Braden Duemmler

Investigation Discovery meets The Shadow Over Innsmouth
You might not imagine that a movie that draws equally from Freduian stepfather ickniness and Lovecraftian ichthyoid creepiness would have much new to offer in terms of chills and thrills. 
And unfortunately, in this case you'd be correct. 
Other than reversing the viewer's gaze so that the fit masculine form is on display at least as much as the curvy feminine, there's nothing different or groundbreaking about this movie. 
If you have ever seen any of those bawdy cable true life crime stories on such channels as Investigation Discovery, History, or HBO, the tales often detail how someone, perhaps a caddish male desperado, but nearly as often a fiendish female seductress, worms his or her way into the heart of a good but lonely desperate person. 
The leech uses its vantage point to exploit its victim financially, emotionally, sexually or in other ways. The victim's relatives are often unable to do anything about this. Or perhaps the victim's family members are just too young to interfere with the victim's love life. 
It can be disconcerting for a child who is inexperienced with the opposite sex to realize that a parent's sexual and romantic desires did not cease with the departure or death of the child's other parent but instead continue. 
Liberty (Ema Horvath) is a virginal teen girl who has become too old for her summer camp. It's time for her to move on to the next stage of life in a number of ways. 
Now that camp is over Liberty is looking to spend some end of summer "just us girls" time with her mother Michelle (Mena Suvari), at their isolated Adirondack vacation home. However, Mommy has different ideas. 
An extroverted and emotionally/physically needy romance novelist, in her daughter's absence Michelle has been playing house with her new much younger boyfriend, handsome deep voiced aquatic biologist John (Trey Tucker), first seen rising out of the lake in what appears to be a deliberate reference to the famous Ursula Andress scene in Dr. No
Liberty can't contain her excitement at seeing John, while Michelle can't help but smugly boast that "[she's] riding that". 

Liberty spends a fair amount of time ogling John, trying to spy on John and her mother, or choosing clothing which she thinks shows off her young assets to their best degree. 
John gives Liberty a Navajo fertility bracelet which appears to inspire some (ahem) "fantasies". 
But some of John's behavior is just straight up weird, odd enough to shock Liberty out of her daydreams and cause her to start to wonder if John's explanations of studying salinity adaptation of aquatic life hide something more sinister. Michelle isn't interested in hearing any of Liberty's nonsense. Michelle is in love. Love dammit! And she has no intention of letting a young man like John slip away.
Unfortunately this movie drags. It's poorly paced. The acting is stiff. I liked that not everything is explained but it could have been done in a neater fashion. By thriller film standards there's not much blood and guts. The film tries to be foreboding but rarely succeeds. In their own ways both John and Liberty are strange people.
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