I was already frightened enough before watching "Just Lie Here" from writer, director Merced Elizondo. Not of things that go bump in the night or perhaps, have a giant red forked tail - but of people in general. I am afraid of societies politeness requirements now days. But I'm especially afraid of our desire to make money using even our innermost, private dwellings. At one time, encyclopedia and vacuum salesmen were the only people we allowed into our homes with very little questions. That's if we even answered the door. Now days, we go so far as to rent our homes or rooms out to complete strangers, in order to make a few bucks. It's a recipe for disaster. No question.
But that's just the broad-strokes of our need to welcome strangers in our home. One could argue, that the rise of the internet has degraded our social graces so much, that many of us will welcome anybody inside with very little of a background check. I began writing a short script myself, similar to the story in this film, not long ago. It was after reading in the newspaper that an elderly lady was beaten to death by the man who came to install her washer. What is this world coming to? Just wow.
"Just Lie Here" is very similar in concept to that true story of the old lady. After renting a room to a stranger, Thomas and Linda Clarke treat this man like one of their own children. Right down to cooking for him! And why wouldn't they? He's charming. He's polite, and he's paid the couple to boycott the impersonal nature of a hotel room. He wants a down-home experience. Yet something isn't right. Through various musical clues for us viewers, and occasional slips when talking to Thomas and Linda, something is definitely afoot. It even seems like Thomas himself suspects Jude, the overnight guest, may be hiding something. And then the worst happens and us viewers can nod our head as we realize we were right all along. Jude is definitely not who he at first appeared, and Thomas and Linda's fight for survival begins. No further spoilers given.
From a technical standpoint, "Just Lie Here" looks and sounds great. For a lower budget indie flick, it plays as good, perhaps even better at times, than it's larger budget studio cousins. I bring that up only because a comparison between this low budget indie and a larger studio film is inevitable - due to the plot itself. There's nothing new here. Anyone who has ever watched a thriller or horror film knows exactly what's up. The names have changed and the setup, a room for rent, is a great modern variation of a classic theme. But we know. We definitely know.
But why didn't Thomas and Linda know? Especially when Jude began making his occasional slip ups? Have they never watched a thriller before? Or perhaps, is it because like most of us, they simply could never imagine something like this could ever happen to them. Totally dismissing any mistrust they could have had. It's a question for the ages but at least in this film, it's all done with style.
The leading baddie in this film, Jude, reminded me so much of Jake Busey's early films. The numbers on the forehead also brought back memories of "The Frighteners." Trey Peyton as Jude did hit all the marks, including a sometimes hollow delivery that completely made his character work. Christopher Phipps and April Hartman also delivered solid performances. The every-man and every-woman who populate local neighborhoods of today. Up until the ending of the film, everything just felt right. And then the final scenes take place and "Just Lie Here" lets up on the reigns a little. Some momentum is lost. If I walked back into my house and found, what Thomas found inside, I would definitely not be near as calm. I won't go into details, but would rather leave it for the viewers to decide.
At the end of the day? This was a great thriller. There's no question about that. It plays on the fears we all have of strangers, and plays even more with the notion of being polite. Being the good person because nothing bad ever happens to the good people. In real life. Merced Elizondo and his troupe dish out a tense twenty minutes, and completely earn their four stars.