31 Days of Horror: What Lies Beneath


31 Days of Horror continues with the Hitchcockian suspense-thriller What Lies Beneath. When I first saw this movie in theaters, I remember having this feeling that something was coming. Something big. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew that director Robert Zemeckis was ratcheting up the tension and suspense for a huge climactic finale. I wasn’t disappointed.

What Lies Beneath is a ghost story starring two of cinemas most well-known actors, Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. After finally being alone after their daughter moves off to college, Claire Spencer (Pfeiffer) starts to hear mysterious noises and see odd things around her home. Is it a ghost? Is she just crazy? Her husband Norman (Ford) isn’t sure what to think. But is there something from his past that’s trying to warn Claire? And what happens if she finds out before he stops her from doing so?

There are lots of great moments throughout the film that showcase Ford’s and Pfeiffer’s range as actors. One scene near the start of the film was shot in one continuous take and shows how well talented actors can hold an audience captive without the overuse of cuts and editing.

Director Robert Zemeckis also creates some amazing and rather perplexing cinematic shots throughout the film that add to the overall sense of mystery. On the audio commentary track of the DVD, he talks about how all the shots were done; all but one. It’s at the end of the second act and is a great shot that does defy logic at first glance.

The film’s soundtrack is intense, jarring, and makes your heart race, thanks to a score by Alan Silvestri. Silvestri utilizes a lot of strings in his compositions that are reminiscent of the Psycho score. Fantastic.

I’d also like to point out that the screenwriter, Clark Gregg, is also the actor who plays Christine Campbell’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) ex-husband Richard on The New Adventures of Old Christine.

The most intense moment in the film, for my money, is the final 30-40 minutes of the movie. When his secret is discovered, and he confesses what he’s done to his wife, Norman calls the police in front of her. Or does he? From this point forward I was on the edge of my seat in the theatre. This is where things start to intensify, and Claire finds herself in more danger than she ever thought possible. Add in the music score, the directing, and top-notch acting, and this final sequence holds you in its grip until the very last moment.

Yes, I know this film isn’t without its flaws. The subplot with the neighbors is never resolved; Claire’s kooky psychic friend vanishes halfway through the film; and there are other issues dealing with continuity, etc. But despite these things, or maybe in spite of them, What Lies Beneath is one of my favorite thrillers/ghost stories.

While it may not be a gore or splatter-fest like other films that will be on this list, What Lies Beneath earns its place here due to its ability to thrill, chill, and scare the crap out of my mom! And when your mom gets scared watching a film like this on DVD in broad daylight, the filmmakers must be doing something right.

What’s your favorite ghost-related movie? Favorite moment from What Lies Beneath? Leave a comment and let us know!

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