In WHAT LIES BELOW, Liberty, a socially awkward 16-year-old, returns from two months at camp to a blindsided introduction of her Mother’s fiancé, John Smith, whose charm, intelligence, and beauty paint the picture of a man too perfect to be human.
This script does an excellent job of presenting something that feels familiar but layering it with the lust of a teenage girl. Braden R. Duemmler gives us a nuanced look at relationship dynamics wrapped in an enigma of anxiety and fear. We get a fantastic balance of a real-life scenario with the understanding that something is indeed very off about John Smith. The cringeworthy moments are aplenty and that’s a compliment. The character of Liberty is fully fleshed out. I was that girl, in many ways, at 16. While my passion was writing and theatre, I understood the awkward encounters and the sensation of excitement at the thought of an attractive older man having an understanding of the things I liked. Liberty ends up being a badass through her terror and she is a hero in my book. That’s the kind of female protagonist we need.
Mena Suvari plays Michelle, Liberty’s lovesick mother. She is an incredible foil for Ema Horvath. She plays a kinda lost, flaky mom with serious (albeit warranted) daddy issues. When she essentially chooses John over Liberty you cannot help but detest her. But, their dynamic is set from the very beginning and it is what drives Liberty until the end of the film. Trey Tucker strikes a great balance of charming, smart, slightly weird, and intense as hell. His performance and Horvath’s create the needed mystery and vibration that make What Lies Below such a success.
Ema Horvath is outstanding. Having just seen her in The Mortuary Collection, I was aware of her innate ability to slide into someone else’s skin (no pun intended), but this role fits her so well. She’s bright and self-aware and brings that careful insecurity to this performance. I, for one, cannot wait to see what she does next.
There are subtle classic sci-fi references throughout, leading you to think you know where this is headed. The ending smacked me hard in the face. I was not expecting it and to Duemmler’s credit, I say “Bravo”. It’s a bold choice and I think genre fans will love it. Check out the trailer for a taste of What Lies Below.
Vertical Entertainment will release the supernatural thriller WHAT LIES BELOW on Demand and Digital on December 4, 2020.
Written by Braden R. Duemmler, who is also making his directorial feature debut, the film stars Ema Horvath (“Don’t Look Deeper”), Trey Tucker (The Space Between Us), Mena Suvari (American Beauty), and Haskiri Velazsquez (“Saved by the Bell”).