Why Shut In star Naomi Watts should never take a bath

Prune-like skin is the least of Watts’ and countless other horror film characters’ problems whenever they bathe, or worse, fall asleep in the tub

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 November, 2016, 11:09am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 November, 2016, 11:09am

For God’s sake, Naomi Watts, stay away from the bathtub!

It’s a lesson the actress didn’t learn before shooting her thriller Shut In. When strange stuff starts going down, do not – repeat, do not – go near, much less luxuriate, in a hot bath.

Pruney skin will be the least of your concerns.

“If you’re in a bathtub in a horror movie, you know what you’re signing up for,” Watts acknowledges. “Expect the worst. Bad things happen around there.”

Watts should know. In 2005’s The Ring Two, her character Rachel Keller saw her son terrifyingly transform into the film’s deadly spirit Samara in the tub, leading to a very wet battle. Yet in Shut In, Watts’ Mary Portman, who believes she’s losing her mind during a storm in her isolated house (big red flags there), decides to relax with a soothing bath.

In the pivotal scene, Portman naturally dozes off and has a nightmare.

When she wakes up, “it’s clear she has fallen asleep,” says director Farren Blackburn. “It’s not so clear whether the nightmare woke her or if she’s hearing someone downstairs trying to get into the house.”

Bad baths have played out throughout film history, often in cinematically pleasing claw foot tubs with beautiful victims. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Claire nearly drowned after someone (surely not her perfect husband, played by Harrison Ford) booby-trapped her tub in 2000’s What Lies Beneath.

Serial killer Freddy Krueger had his most famous and violating attack on heroine Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) when she foolishly nodded off while bathing in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Kylie Strutemyer (Tania Saulnier) didn’t even see the slug-like killer crawling over the tub in 2006’s Slither, as she relaxed with earbuds on.

In David Cronenberg’s Shivers (1975), Betts (Barbara Steele) was having a soak with wine when she was attacked by a parasite coming up through the plughole.

Anne Archer’s Beth would never have suspected she’d be assaulted by insane, knife-wielding Alex (Glenn Close) in Fatal Attraction’s soggy climax in 1987.

“Bathtub scenes play into everyone’s biggest fears. You’re naked, at your most vulnerable, most unexpecting and most relaxed,” says Erik Davis, managing editor of film website Fandango.com. “Then the bad guy, or thing, comes every time.”

Watts, who says she takes hot baths nightly (with lavender oil), understands the importance of the scenes. She doesn’t even mind the horrors of filming them. Shut In’s bath scenes were shot over three days, and Watts stayed in the tub between takes to save time, Blackburn says.

“We made sure we kept her topped up with warm water – she didn’t complain once,” says Blackburn. “But we definitely turned Naomi into a bit of a prune.”

Shut In opens in Hong Kong on November 24