Norman Spencer, a university research scientist, is growing more and more concerned about his wife, Claire, a retired concert cellist who a year ago was involved in a serious auto accident, and who has just sent off her daughter Caitlin (Norman's stepdaughter) to college. Now, Claire reports hearing voices and witnessing eerie occurrences in and around their lakeside Vermont home, including seeing the face of a young woman reflected in water. An increasingly frightened Claire thinks the phenomena have something to do with the couple living next door, especially since the wife has disappeared without apparent explanation. At her husband's urging, Claire starts to see a therapist; she tells him she thinks the house is being haunted by a ghost. His advice? Try to make contact. Enlisting the help of her best friend, Jody, and a ouija board, Claire seeks to find out the truth of What Lies Beneath. Written by
Eugene Kim <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to the original script by Clarke Gregg, the scene with the Ouija board was started by Jody. Later she runs out screaming after the séance gets a little out of hand. The scene was changed for the movie in order to emphasize how much Claire thinks she is losing her mind. See more »
Near the end, when Claire is driving the pickup to run away, the rear-view mirror can be seen when she leaves the house. During the first shot of the bridge the mirror is gone, but reappears later. See more »
What Lies Beneath: "This is a Passive/Aggressive Masterpiece"
Claire and Norman Spencer have a perfect marriage. Being happily married and raising Claire's college-bound daughter Caitlin makes them seem like a perfect couple in their quaint lakeside Vermont community. When Caitlin leaves, however, Claire starts experiencing strange phenomena that continually increase in intensity. What starts out as creaky floors and toppling pictures soon evolves into ghostly apparitions in the bathroom and paranormal attacks against Claire. Is Claire really under attack by a ghost? Or is she, as Norman fears, just completely crazy?
Zemeckis' foray into the thriller genre resulted in a great combination mystery/horror film. "What Lies Beneath", despite what the critics may have said, is a scary film. Director Robert Zemeckis isn't afraid to let tension build for close to an hour before giving us the first genuine jump-out-of-your-seat moment and, when it's as good a jump as this one is, it's worth the wait. In fact there are several "jump scares" in the film and they really are frightening. "What Lies Beneath" nearly had me hitting the ceiling with some of the scares it provides. That means Zemeckis did something right.
Robert Zemeckis always wanted to make a Hitchcockian thriller, and for the most part "What Lies Beneath" is just that. Zemeckis even makes sure to throw some Hitchcock references (Psycho, Rear Window) into the film as an homage to his inspiration. There are some excellent shots in this film that would make Hitchcock proud. The use of glass floors, for example, to let us get up close and personal with dropped objects or fallen characters is used effectively and just enough so that we don't get too much of a good thing. Zemeckis' choice of houses is also extremely Hitchcockian. It's a beautiful lakeside estate during the day, but at night it's like a monster looming in the distance: shadowy and imposing.
The only un-Hitchcockian aspect of the film is Zemeckis' use of CGI to obtain some shots. Not that I'm saying they're bad shots, they certainly are not that, but Hitchcock would find a way to do them without digital trickery were he alive today. Then again, Hitchcock was an unparalleled genius when it came to trick shots like moving a camera through a solid wall or floor. Zemeckis pulls off these kinds of shots in his own way, and they're still great.
A Zemeckis trademark is his ability to get great performances out of his cast, and "What Lies Beneath" is no exception. Michelle Pfeiffer is allowed to go completely bonkers in what should have been an Oscar nominated performance. Pfeiffer makes herself seem truly frightened, and she portrays Claire's mental breakdown very well. Harrison Ford is kept subdued and nearly monotone throughout most of the film, providing great surprises later on when his true emotions burst to the surface. I could imagine an Oscar nod for him too. Man, where was the Academy that year? The two personalities, one unbridled and afraid, the other disbelieving and confused, play off one another perfectly to create an aspect of marital discord that adds wonderfully to the film's complexity.
With plenty of twists and turns (which I dare not reveal) to keep you guessing to the end, great acting, virtuoso camera work, and some truly frightening moments, "What Lies Beneath" is a thriller that ranks with some of the best of them. This is another film that Robert Zemeckis can be proud of.
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