What Lies Beneath is a ghost story in the classical sense. From the big house to the familial secrets simmering underneath the surface to Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of female hysteria, it could almost be a modern day remake of Hitchcock’s Rebecca or The Turn of the Screw.
Director Robert Zemeckis is clearly aware of these influences, and for the most part he plays with the cliche’s deftly throughout the film. One of the most refreshing aspects of What Lies Beneath is the way that the casting of Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford allows for a truly adult story – with none of the quipping or fourth wall breaking teenagers who were popularised at the time.
Pfeiffer takes the lead as Claire Spencer, an affluent suburbanite struggling with empty nest syndrome after her only daughter leaves for college. She’s also struggling with some vague trauma involving a car accident the previous year. Spending most of her days alone in her predictably glorious lakeside house, she becomes fixated on the tempestuous relationship of a younger couple who move in next door, particularly when the wife appears to vanish in suspicious circumstances.
It’s not a perfect movie by any means – there are several hokey elements including heavy-handed exposition and a veritable artillery of Chekov’s guns. It also runs a good thirty minutes longer than a movie like this needs to, with a saggy mid-section that could easily have been trimmed down. But the acting is strong, and Zemeckis delivers some genuinely inventive scare scenes along the way.
In this week’s podcast, we break down the plot of What Lies Beneath and discuss everything from Pfeiffer’s scream-queen credentials, Ford in a rare villainous role, an extremely unrealistic depiction of dog ownership and more. We also feature our usual raft of drinking games, listener reactions and of course we throw in a few sequel pitches for good measure!
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Next week, we’re moving away from ghost stories to discuss a little-seen film that comes with some serious baggage. All will be revealed, but until then, happy listening and remember – excessively loud sex noises are neither clever nor convincing. Keep those windows closed, people…