Although it was originally released on-demand in December 2020, What Lies Below recently joined the Netflix roster, and it quickly garnered the attention of millions of users, jumping to the platform's most-watched category seemingly overnight.
The film, which was both written and directed by Braden R. Duemmler, contains just that right level of creepiness to leave viewers checking over their shoulders for monsters after watching, and its ending is arguably its most intense point.
So, what happened in What Lies Below that has fans talking? Read on for an explainer of the plot and the film's crazy ending.
'What Lies Below' — Ending Explained (Spoilers!)
The focus of the film is on Libby (Ema Horvath) and her return to her mother's house in the Adirondacks. Her mom, Michelle (Mena Suvari), has fallen in love with an aquatic researcher named John Smith (Trey Tucker). However, Libby quickly begins to piece together that there's more than meets the eye with John. Between odd sleepwalking patterns, reactions to saltwater, and a variety of other circumstances, Libby knows something is up.
Things get even weirder when John and Libby go on a fishing trip to catch specimens for his weird makeshift laboratory built in Michelle's basement. While they try to catch lampreys, Libby's period begins. John then inappropriately grabs her crotch, setting off a series of even weirder events that include smelling her used clothes and watching her in the shower.
Oh, and then she watches him sleepwalk straight into a lake.
As all this is happening, Michelle appears to be getting sick. While in town one day, Libby sees John out and about with another woman. The woes of Libby's life lead her to confide in her best friend, Miley (Haskiri Velazquez), about all that's going on. Being a good friend, Miley confronts John about the misconduct. The next morning, Miley has disappeared without a trace.
Once her best friend is missing, Libby knows she must act to confront John. She tells him that Michelle is actually too old to have a child in the hopes he will find dating her fruitless and decide to leave. Instead, John takes this as a challenge and tries to impregnate Michelle. Shortly after, Libby walks in on John and Michelle having sex, only to notice some sort of odd scales growing on his back.
The ending of 'What Lies Below' is truly wild, even with context.
Throughout the film, Libby is desperately trying to figure out what is off with her mother's boyfriend. As it turns out, John is actually a demonic aquatic shapeshifter who is looking to further his race by impregnating humans. Sounds pretty reasonable, right?
Libby finds her mother tied to a water tank in the basement and is then approached by a scaly water demon that quickly morphs back into John. It then appears he is trying to coach Michelle through the birth of a demonic, half-aquatic-half-human baby.
Following that, Libby realizes that John must have fed Miley to the lampreys. She also works to destroy the signal jammer he has set up so neither she nor Michelle can call 911. The two manage to get away from the house right after, but not for long.
John quickly catches up to the two escapees and it is then where the movie truly shows its full weirdness. After being captured, Libby awakes tied up in the basement and surrounded by men who look just like John. They reveal countless dead bodies in a brief moment, and then John literally spits a glowing blue ball into Libby's mouth, causing her to pass out again.
This transitions to Libby waking up again in some kind of tank filled with water that she is pounding against and screaming. The camera then pans out and reveals other women also confined in these water-filled tanks. The film's final scene showcases the embattled young girl's smile, realizing she can now breathe underwater, and then cuts to black.
Through it all, John was never here for love. He was only seeking fertile humans to impregnate and help further grow his species' ranks. His obsession with Libby's young age and aspects related to her fertility throughout the film were all indicative of his end goal to capture her and impregnate her.
Although the ending might not have been ideal for some viewers, it succeeds in exactly what its writer intended from the jump: a chilling unexplained final moment that fits the rest of the film's mood precisely.