Main cast: Ema Horvath (Liberty Wells), Trey Tucker (John Smith), Haskiri Velazquez (Miley), and Mena Suvari (Michelle Wells)
Director: Braden R Duemmler
Many people say they don’t get What Lies Below, but for some reason, everything comes together perfectly for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched and read way too many genre stuff, but I think I get what is happening in the so-called confusing last fifteen or so minutes. At any rate, the things I say here what be considered spoilers by some folks, so avert your eyes and press the back button or another link quickly before I ramble further.
You still here? Don’t say I never warn you people!
Now, imagine that Dagon’s fish-men things come from outer space. Imagine that they can take on the form of hot guys to seduce and impregnate human women for the propagation of their species. Trey Tucker’s John Smith emerges from the water, like he’s James Bond or something, but in an actual banana hammock that Daniel Craig never dared to war, so yes, I suspect that Dagon will have far more worshipers than he currently does if he had a few John Smith to bridge relationships between humans and whatever species John Smith belongs to.
Yes, Liberty Wells, a high school girl that is grappling with her own sexual awakening, finds herself alternatively intrigued and repulsed by her mother Michelle’s new boyfriend. He’s hot, but he also behaves in a bizarre, sometimes not-so-human-like manner. This is one bizarre holiday that will turn dangerous as Liberty slowly discovers John’s dirty little secret…
Now, a lot of one’s enjoyment of this movie hinges on how attractive the audience finds Trey Tucker. Maybe I’m just old school, but I don’t find his aesthetic sexy, to be honest. The whole shaved-everything-on-my-body thing may be a thing for young kids of today, but I find John Smith more Action Figure Ken than anything else. Because much of this movie is hinging on fanning the sexual tension between John and Liberty, the fact that I don’t find John Smith sexy—just pretty—kind of lowers any heat I am supposed to feel while watching this thing. Maybe younger kids will find this movie ooh on the TLC tip, but I view this more of a starter kit for kids that want to venture into the darker side of Lovecraft-ian stuff. We start off with this movie, of a sexy fellow that wants to impregnate women with baby amphibian half-lamprey, half-something things, and if the kids liked what they see, well, there is a whole genre of stuff devoted to tentacles, slimy things, and mind-blowing organisms if one knew where to look.
If I take away the whole “I’m supposed to want to have John’s Dagon-critter spawn!” angle, there isn’t much left to this movie. It never dares to push the envelope when it comes to Liberty’s sexual awakening, and poor Ema Horvath spends more time on screen scowling and biting her own lower lip. In other words, this movie sets up things that it has no intention to deliver, and some folks thinking that they would be getting something racier should likely have a better time watching that underrated Species (the movie, not the franchise, because the sequels are just terrible).
The cast is fine, although Mena Suvari never had much to do with her role as Michelle is written to alternate between a ditz and a damsel in distress. For a low budget movie, the whole thing comes together great, with solid pacing and good atmosphere and all. It’s quite a shame, therefore, that the whole thing eventually devolves into a standard chase-and-escape thing instead of serving up a more appropriate, more risky denouement that the movie up to that point has been teasing at.
I’ve always wondered whether I’d get any movie with a male equivalent of those seductive female monster-aliens that just want to seduce and monstrously destroy their mates in the name of biology. Species II… really, let’s never speak of that thing again. And sadly, What Lies Below isn’t that movie either. It’s watchable, definitely, if a little bit slow in the beginning for folks that don’t find Trey Tucker attractive, but it also tries so hard to be safe and inoffensive.