It’s time to look at a horror/thriller film. This one’s about what you would expect. It’s not very good with a bunch of plot twists that don’t help its case. I’ll give the trailer some props for being incredibly misleading with a plot twist. It’s a clever misdirect. Of course, if you were excited for that plot line, it also means that you could be in for a disappointment when you watch the film. Needless to say, I didn’t mind that plot line being cut, but the actual plot in the film wasn’t any better.
Claire and Norman have been married for a long time. Norman can be a little too attached to his job at times, but he’s been a good person. Unfortunately, mysterious things begin to happen. Claire hears voices, she sees things move, her computer even starts typing MEF as much as possible. Norman thinks that she’s just being silly and tells her to cut it out. He’s never very understanding of the whole thing. Then Claire sees her neighbors acting suspiciously. They always seem to fight and the wife was crying about being terrified of something. Claire then becomes confident that she is murdered by the other neighbor and seeks to prove it. A lot of things are happening, but is Claire just making hasty conclusions?
Well, lets talk about some of the twists. We’re entering heavy spoiler land with this review so prepare for that. It’s an old movie so it’s all fair game, but I figure that I’d warn you in advance. One plot twist is that the neighbor’s wife just gets terrified and emotional whenever her husband is away. She has panic attacks, yells, and cries every time he leaves and she just doesn’t want anyone to know which is why she cries in the backyard and then runs if anyone notices her. It’s a very strange explanation and not one that you are very likely to believe. It was a red herring of course, but it’s like the writers couldn’t figure out how to add one in so they just made a very fake one. Not a great move.
You’ll be glad to know that the supernatural part of the film is real and isn’t just a hoax. That being said, it’s one of the weakest spirits in horror movie history. It figures that the one time the ghost is basically a good guy it happens to be weak. I can’t imagine the Grudge or the Ring looking like this. It can’t destroy a single person which is kind of sad. The invisible Ghost want to take him down for the count, but it seems like she needs a lot of help. It also forgets who the main target is at times and just goes wild on everyone. I can appreciate the determination on that, but it just feels very random for the sake of being a red herring once again.
So, one of the big twists revolves around Norman. Apparently he cheated on Claire and then murdered the person to save his own career. This naturally led to her turning into a ghost and vowing to destroy him. Norman also turns on Claire and tries to take her down for the count as well. It’s a very cliche’d route and one that has never worked. Norman also isn’t very thorough as picking another method would have allowed him to have destroyed her a lot quicker. Good thing he likes theatrics.
Claire is an okay character at best. Even as she puts the pieces together, she doesn’t give herself any kind of insurance in case the villain is near. To her defense, it would be hard to guess that Norman is actually evil, but she had cracked a decent amount of the puzzle so she should have thought about it more. Beyond that, Claire also gets possessed rather easily by the ghost or just suffered a nervous breakdown as she helps him relive the moment. It’s another scene that has no purpose in the film.
Lets face it, the romance in the film was poorly handled. The scenes drag on and are mostly just Norman saying “That’s too rough” over and over again during the scene. We get it, Claire’s not acting like herself, no need to keep repeating it. That possession scene was just so random. The film also has an obsession with the bathtub as we get really long scenes of the characters in there. Since Claire is nearly drowned in the bathtub while she is paralyzed, the film uses that as an excuse to keep the scene going. I don’t care for bathtub scenes in any context so that didn’t work for me. Especially not as a climax. We do have some driving at the end as well though and the ghost finally gets to make a move. Better late than never.
The film only works in the first place because of a ton of convenient elements. Claire suffers from intense memory loss because she was so traumatized that she blocked the memories out of something. If not for this, she would have known most of what happened right from the start, but then we’d have no movie. Naturally the cops never figured out the connection between Norman and the girl who went missing either. I like to think that someone would have known what was going on. The ghost was also really weak and couldn’t even help that much before the climax. She could have finished off Norman so easily in many different scenes.
Overall, What Lies Beneath is a thriller that cheats. It doesn’t have much foreshadowing for the events and makes characters act out of character when it suits its purpose. The film should have just played it straight with a vengeful spirit trying to destroy them all. We didn’t need Norman to crack and for the bathtub to be used multiple times as the weapon to destroy them all. There’s nothing really nice to say about the film. The romance is terrible and the film ends on a whimper. None of the characters are likable or even realistic. There’s not much of a soundtrack although I won’t call it bad either. The tunes that were there were likely okay. I can’t recall something sounding out of place at any rate. The film avoided all animal violence and wasn’t that violent in general so that’s a consolation. Still, if you want a good horror film, watch something like The original Mummy film instead. At least it had that retro feel and good writing to back it up.