Horror movies and scary movies are not necessarily the same thing. Horror films can be scary, although, with the current influx of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream types, most only frighten teenagers. A really scary movie frightens with suspense, not gore. The best are like a haunted house--full of dark corners where the unknown lurks and things jump out when least expected.
What Lies Beneath is creepy, but not bloody. Funny, but not cheesy. Most importantly, it is truly scary.
This thriller is the story of a middle-aged couple, Dr. Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford) and his wife Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer), who move into a massive waterfront mansion when their daughter moves away to school. Norman, a workaholic, spends most of his time finishing his research project, leaving Claire alone. As time passes, she begins to hear voices and noises, and her bathtub randomly fills up. Faces appear in the water and mirror. Claire thinks she's cracking up, and so do her friends and husband.
Maybe, they speculate, it's because her daughter left home, or her husband's never around. Maybe her missing neighbour is dead, and back for revenge, or maybe Norman's not being entirely truthful with his nervous wife.
The story itself is not entirely original, but it is creative enough to keep even die-hard Hitchcock fans guessing. Such fans will even appreciate the bathtub scenes; What Lies Beneath may do for baths what Psycho did for showers. Director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) seems to have done this intentionally, as the movie has traces of Rear Window as well.
Much like a Hitchcock classic, What Lies Beneath is not an action flick. There are the necessary chase scenes with the movie picking up speed towards the end, but the beginning drifts along at a dream-like speed. The suspense builds slowly, but surely.
Much of the creepiness is created by superb cinematography with well crafted camera angles. An entire chunk of the final chase scene is seen solely through car windows and rear windows. Reflections are blurry and unsure; what was that in the water?
Although both actors are at their best, Pfeiffer steals most of the show. She carries the flighty nervousness of Claire perfectly. Norman first appears dull and average, but Ford quickly deepens his character, making him mysterious and complicated. Expect many shots of a jumpy Pfeiffer and an irritated Ford. Don't expect anything from Ford that's been seen before. He maintains his proven formula of charm and emoting, but expands himself in this movie. Think Frantic, but much more sinister.
What Lies Beneath will have the bravest movie-goers covering their eyes with their hands and peeking through their fingers to follow the plot. Unexpected surprises and twists will keep the audience jumping, shrieking and dumping their drinks all over the place. And from a suspense-thriller, that's exactly what the audience wants.
Get ready to shriek when What Lies Beneath opens July 21.