CERT: TBC| PLATFORM: DVD, AMAZON PRIME VIDEO | RELEASE DATE: 22 FEB 2021
They are some things that look really simple to do, but are actually very easy to get wrong. Anyone who’s tried singing one of ABBA’s songs for karaoke can confirm this. Another thing that’s very easy to mess up is Lovecraftian horror. That mix of the mundane and the impossible seems cheap and easy to do on the surface; after all it’s more about what you can’t see and understand than what you can; all you need to do is leave enough hints for the viewer and they’ll do the rest. Simple.
Except it really isn’t, as countless low-budget horror movies will attest. What Lies Below is the latest to join this long list. The set-up is pretty straight forward. Ema Horvath plays Liberty, a young girl who is highly suspicious of her mother’s hot new boyfriend. Liberty is socially awkward and apparently quite naïve. The boyfriend is appropriately hot and easily sways the rather dim Liberty. Then when it turns out that her mother’s new chap really is a beast, it all goes horribly wrong.
One of the central issues is that none of the characters are particularly interesting and they’re certainly not very sympathetic. Liberty is dull, the boyfriend isn’t that hot and the mother barely seems to have anything to do except fail to generate tension. They are some interesting performance choices throughout. The director clearly intends the feature to feel mundane and then steadily grow weirder, but instead what we get is something that is both boring and gross at the same time.
The pacing is truly terrible. We go from dull drama to incredibly creepy and then to something more akin to body horror. So slow that it feels like padding at the start and then rushed at the end, we were surprised to discover that this movie was only 80-odd minutes long; it feels much longer.
For a movie like this to work, the performances need to be very strong and the premise unforgiving. Lovecraft was terrified of many things and this fear created some compelling (and repulsive) stories in a slow and steady way. This is a film that plays it’s hand too soon and then tries to fix this by adding increasingly unpleasant set-pieces. The result is highly disappointing.
What Lies Below is a movie that looks like it ran out of ideas, money and talent halfway through it’s production. Utterly forgettable and unless you collect bad movies that aren’t any fun to watch, one to avoid.