What Lies Beneath (2000) / Thriller-Mystery
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for terror, violence, sensuality and brief language
Running Time: 130 min.
Cast: Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diana Scarwid, Miranda Otto, James Remar
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay: Clark Gregg
If you've seen the trailer for this movie, I feel sorry for you. I had seen it about 4 times before seeing the full film and wished that I hadn't, as it gives away almost every interesting idea the movie has going for it. Has Hollywood forgotten that thrillers are far more effective when we don't know what's going to happen?!? Oh well, not knowing what would happen wouldn't have saved this film from it's limp nature but at least I wouldn't have been bored for the first 90 minutes waiting for a twist I hadn't seen in the trailer.
Continuing the downward spiral of the careers of Harrison Ford (Random Hearts, Six Days Seven Nights) and Michelle Pfeiffer (The Story of Us, The Prince of Egypt) come What Lies Beneath, capitalizing on the ghost story trend that helped The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project. Director Zemeckis takes this one through the Hitchcockian route, trying to play up macabre psychological terror while liberally lifting key plot devices from Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo and Suspicion.
What Lies Beneath takes us back to the old school of ghost thrillers, mixing Hitchcock with The Haunting, Les Diaboliques and the other psychological creep-fests from the 50s and 60s. The first hour sets things up slowly but effectively, and Zemeckis offers subtle but stylish touches of his own to make things more lively. Ford and Pfeiffer are excellent actors and while the script isn't up to their talents, they do the best they can with what little there is from veteran actor and first-time screenwriter Clark Gregg (Choke).
Where the movie ultimately goes wrong is in the final half hour, when you find out the ridiculous reasons for all of the strange goings on in Pfeiffer's behavior. At the hands of a master like Hitchcock, who probably would have changed the script into something more plausible, this could have been an intriguingly effective thriller. Adversely, at the hands of someone less skilled than Zemeckis, this could have been a total disaster. It's difficult to say whether we should be pleased it's watchable rather than wondering why it isn't better, but considering the talent involved here, anything less than a good film is probably worthy of considering a major disappointment.
©2000, 2013 Vince Leo