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What Lies Beneath

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: What Lies Beneath

Starring: Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: July 2000
Genres: Horror, Suspense

*Also starring: Wendy Crewson, Joe Morton, Amber Valletta, James Remar, Rachel Singer

Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

Director Robert Zemeckis ("Back to the Future") describes the screenplay of "What Lies Beneath" as "written in the language of Hitchcock." I am not sure if that is as insulting as Gus Van Sant's abominable "Psycho" remake but it comes close. Not only does such a statement make me want to vomit, but it further illustrates how audiences today might be compelled to agree, since they will accept anything with two glamorous movie stars. Actually, it is written in the language of "Scream" and every slasher flick post-"Halloween," and the truth is that all of those films are superior to this monotonous, suspenseless and incredibly silly thriller.

Let's look at what lies beneath the episodic structure. The beautiful, luscious Michelle Pfeiffer plays Claire Spencer, the morose wife to Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford), a successful geneticist. They live in some country house by a lake in Vermont, and their daughter has just gone away to college. Claire misses her tremendously, and is beginning to feel the effects of loneliness and isolation, especially since her husband is working late hours. At home, she finds there are problems with the electrical outlets in the bathroom (well, she gets a little shock occasionally). Soon, she finds the front door to her house opens by itself. Then picture frames begin to fall by themselves. But wait!!! Who is the bearded gentleman living with his wife in the house next door? And could the wife have been killed by her husband? And is the possibly dead wife a ghost who is haunting Claire? And is this another remake of "Rear Window," but without Christopher Reeve?

So far, so good. I must say that this is a fine setup for a possibly supernatural thriller. And Pfeiffer plays her role straight, lending a sympathetic hand for this melancholy heroine. Is she seeing things, or is there really a ghost in the house? But, oh my, does Zemeckis and writer Clark Gregg screw it up by installing one too many red herrings. If you are one of the unlucky few who saw the trailer for this movie, you know the inevitable denouement and everything that leads to it. Suffice to say, I will not disclose much more except to say that the setup is completely ruined and fabricated, leading to a hodgepodge of other movies entirely.

Basically, "What Lies Beneath" is a hybrid of Hitchcock, "Sixth Sense," "Stir of Echoes," "The Stepfather" and anything else you can think of. Ask yourself this one question: are we seeing a thriller, a drama about a potential tryst, a ghost story, the latest slasher picture, or all the above? Apparently, Zemeckis and Gregg have no idea so they copy and paste it all together hoping it will make sense and surprise audiences. No sale.

I must say that I enjoyed the climactic, tense bathtub scene (recalling "Fatal Attraction's" bloody climax) and the lovely Pfeiffer's performance who invests more weight in the role than is necessary. There is also James Remar as the suspicious, curt neighbor (worth mentioning because he gives the best performance in the film, and he also bears an uncanny resemblance to Harrison Ford's bearded Richard Kimble in "The Fugitive") Unfortunately, Ford is left in the sidelines, barely registering any chemistry with Pfeiffer, and director Zemeckis is intent on throwing in the "fake scares" cliche, one after another, not to mention the old "the killer is never really dead" syndrome. From Ford, Pfeiffer, and Zemeckis, all that lies beneath is a lack of purpose.

Copyright 2000 Jerry Saravia

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