Stuff I Watch in October: What Lies Beneath (2000)

what lies beneath

Happy October and welcome! All 31 days this month, I will be reviewing all the films I watch in the month of October. They’re mostly a selection of horror or suspense films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Psycho (1960)
The Haunting (1963)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
The Other (1972)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Halloween (1978)
Alien (1979)
The Shining (1980)
Halloween II (1981)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Halloween III – Season of the Witch (1982)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Teen Wolf (1985)
Aliens (1986)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Predator (1987)
The Monster Squad (1987)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
They Live (1988)
Beetlejuice (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Predator 2 (1990)
The Addams Family (1991)
Alien 3 (1992)
Army of Darkness (1992)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Crow (1994)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Scream (1996)
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Scream 2 (1997)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
The Sixth Sense (1999)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: What Lies Beneath (2000)

what lies beneath

DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis, the dude behind such classics as Romancing the Stone, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and the great Back to the Future trilogy.

WHAT IS IT?: What Lies Beneath was Zemeckis, post-Gump, just after he completed the awesome Contact with Jodie Foster. He did this film and Castaway with Tom Hanks at the same time. This film was Zemeckis doing Hitchcock.

THE PLOT: With their daughter leaving the nest to go off to college, a middle-aged couple, Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Norman (Harrison Ford) are excited to have the house to themselves — even though their marriage seems a touch rocky. This changes when another middle-aged couple, Warren (James Remar) and Mary (Miranda Otto), move in next store and mirrors their plight — only on a more volatile level.

After the couple have a screaming match, Claire believes she witnesses Warren carrying his wife’s wrapped-up dead body outside to his car. Immediately after this, the spirit of a dead woman begins haunting Claire in her own house, seemingly sending her cryptic messages much to Norman’s disbelief and skepticism. However, as the haunting incidents ramp up, Norman is forced to come to terms with the fact that his wife isn’t crazy after all.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: They were mixed, calling the film unoriginal. Odd, since the film was everything Scream was, just not so snarky or sly, and critics ate up that film like candy.

what lies beneath

WHAT DID I THINK?: Before I continue, I have to say that I will never understand how I went 20 years without knowing that the screenplay was written by actor Clark Gregg who played Agent Coulson in ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD” and several of the Marvel films. I guess I should have known.

It’s apparent in the script that somebody wrote What Lies Beneath as a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. The script has all of Hitchcock’s trademarks: a clean cosmopolitan setting, ordinary people involved in extraordinary circumstances, expert-level tension, and dark humor and Robert Zemeckis’s direction is outstanding, one of two great films he directed at virtually the same time and released months apart from one another, which just shows how versatile he is.

The film is nothing but constant tension, preying on your emotions. Like Claire, you don’t want to look into a mirror or the reflection in the bathtub water — but you become as curious as she is. It’s clear that SOMETHING has happened and you want a resolution and justice for the spirit in question.

Harrison Ford plays the good Dr. Spencer as a man who loves his wife — but who is frustrated with Claire’s problems and doesn’t do enough work to understand what she’s going through.

The two have excellent chemistry but it’s Pfeiffer who shines here. The consummate actress, she understands her role and her performance runs the gamut of emotion from frightened to frustrated to angry all the way to absolutely broken and wanting what’s haunting her to stop for her own sanity and for the sake of her marriage to Norman.

The film’s climax from the bathtub sequence all the way up to resolution is a master class in suspense and shows the viewer how to do horror right.

The film currently holds a 46% critics rating at the aggregate website, “Rotten Tomatoes”.
I will NEVER, as long as I live, understand that.

What Lies Beneath, while not wholly original, is one of Zemeckis’ best and truly inspired work.


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