More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.49%
Worth A Look: 24.66%
Pretty Bad: 19.86%
Total Crap: 8.22%

8 reviews, 98 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Aniara by Jay Seaver

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum by Jay Seaver

Long Day's Journey Into Night (2018) by Jay Seaver

Shadow by Jay Seaver

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blachť by Jay Seaver

Hustle, The by Peter Sobczynski

Detective Pikachu by Peter Sobczynski

Mope by Jay Seaver

Tone-Deaf by Jay Seaver

Bolden by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

What Lies Beneath
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"Bad Ad Campaign Nearly Ruins A Perfectly Good Thriller"
4 stars

One must never let expectations dictate how one judges a movie (as a critic). Everyone takes some kind of baggage into a movie, whether it be the happiness of a new promotion or the recent passing of a loved one. As a film lover, my baggage usually is increased, because not only can my mood be a presiding factor, but also my knowledge of the talent involved and my love or dislike of them. What Lies Beneath was directed by Robert Zemeckis, a great filmmaker who is on my short list of favorite directors. Of the nearly dozen films he has directed, there has not been a single one that I have not enjoyed. And with a resume that boasts Forrest Gump, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Contact, Romancing the Stone, Used Cars and the Back to the Future trilogy, who will dare step forward to argue with me? However, when viewing the trailers for his latest film, I didnít feel that same rush that always overcame me with every new Zemeckis project. So my baggage was leveraged to nil on either side of the coin, enabling me to watch the film primarily as a film. However something couldnít escape me, something implanted into my psyche that bothered me and hindered me from enjoying the film the way I should have. And Iím not going to let that happen to you.

Therefore, the first thing Iím going to do is to reveal nothing about the filmís plot. Absolute zero. Iím going to tread around it as carefully as possible so as to preserve the numerous surprises I was robbed of, a situation Iíll address shortly. The second thing Iím going to do is to tell you to avoid the filmís previews. At all costs. If you have been unfortunate enough to view the trailer in theaters or in-between your favorite television show Ė donít view it anymore, maybe youíll forget about it. Turn off the channel for a couple minutes and pray you didnít see too much. I was not so lucky. Iíve seen the trailer, the commercials and the ads. Even the posterís tagline gives away the crucial turning point of the film. A turning point that was best left unrevealed. As it stands now, by having said info, the first hour of the film is virtually pointless. But is this the filmmakerís fault. Absolutely not.

Upon leaving the screening for What Lies Beneath, I was ready to dismiss it as a disappointment from a director using material that was (no pun intended) beneath him. I certainly didnít think the movie was bad nor a failure, but held on to a little of that aforementioned baggage and the scar tissue that was the ad campaign. But the more I thought about the movie, not only did I recognize that the parts of it I enjoyed Ė I really enjoyed, but that if I knew nothing about this film going in, it would have been a classic red herring/plot-twisting thriller. This is a film hindered by an ad campaign that has ruined the efforts of a writer and first-rate director in concealing secrets and their willingness to shock you. So letís talk about it without actually talking about it.

What Lies Beneath is an experiment in Hitchcock. Itís more of an homage to the master of suspense than anything Brian DePalma has put on film (and thatís not a knock). Zemeckis directs the hell out of this movie, doing more with it than it may actually deserve. Unfortunately I have to skate around the details more carefully than Nancy Kerrigan at a cold plumberís shop. Zemeckis and screenwriter Clark Gregg have cobbled together the best themes of Hitchcockís suspense pictures and just lets them run loose. In the hands of another director, this could have been just a routine woman-in-peril piece, and Zemeckis seems to direct it very casually, until you realize about a half-hour in that he is winking at you from behind the camera. He turns What Lies Beneath into a love letter to camera tricks and red herrings. There are sequences so subtle yet so complex, that it may take a second viewing just to appreciate that thereís a true master at work. And when the film goes completely nuts into hyperdrive during the final half hour, including a brilliant bathtub scene, Zemeckis keeps it under control turning his climax into a sly parody of other more ridiculously over-the-top endings, while still maintaining suspense. Thatís a director. Living in the post-MTV era where a large number of the populace has the patience and span of a schizophrenic with attention-deficit disorder, What Lies Beneath is a hark back to the old days of filmmaking. The days when a director can paint each individual scene themselves, without having to rely on the editor later on to pump up the attention, I mean action, for the audience.

What Lies Beneath must have been a blast to make. There must have been a read-through where the principle players relished doing one specific sequence Ė and I mean one for each of them - while throwing a wrinkle into their usual projects. Michelle Pfeiffer plays up one of her long-string of troubled housewife roles and is very good, making us believe both that she actually is scared while possibly even a little nuts. A scene that is ruined in the previews gives Pfeiffer her sexiest moment since she writhed on the piano in The Fabulous Baker Boys. Harrison Ford reminisces more of one of his old roles than you think, (Iím not going to tell you which one) and heís very good playing a flawed individual so consumed in his work that heís made his marriage a second priority. So consumed is Fordís character, that one of the top box-office draws in the world, has been reduced to essentially a supporting role, one which Ford should be commended in taking.

This is the first film that Iíve actually changed my rating on while in the process of reviewing it, as this is a film that I hold the advertisers responsible for ruining a lot of the fun. If youíve seen the trailers (and canít forget about them) then youíll know what I mean when you see the movie. I canít fathom why the ad-meisters chose to give away so much, particularly a twist that we wait over an hour to be revealed in the film. You might as well come in at the one hour point; a practice ironically forbidden by the real Hitchcock during the release of Psycho. You had to be in the theater before it began or would be turned away, so as not to spoil its surprises. Could the secrets of Psycho remain safe in the media age we live in today? Well, hopefully some of What Lies Beneathís twists can be preserved. Iím not going to compare the film to other thrillers so as to not get your mind working overtime, piecing together what I could possibly mean by paralleling two unrelated films. Iím not going to say its Star Wars meets Singiní In the Rain. Although this is a game you can play, as you will recognize the signature of many well-known titles throughout film history. This is a film Iím going to see a second time in the theater, a film so well made that it deserves a second viewing without any excess baggage. Some of its secrets were spoiled for me, but it doesnít have to be for you. I donít wish I could tell you more, so youíll just have to see for yourself.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 07/21/00 09:18:40
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell a routine ghost flick 3 stars
3/23/11 Nancy the movie did its job, scare the shit out of me. great movie. 4 stars
5/08/09 Samantha Pruitt very suspenseful, i like the story 4 stars
8/13/08 Brenda I think the biggest problem was Harris Ford was the bad guy. He didn't pull it off 2 stars
5/15/08 cinderella Great film with wonderful acting from Pfeiffer! 5 stars
12/15/06 R.W.Welch Hokey ending. Otherwise, not a bad suspense flick. 3 stars
8/14/06 Sharon didnt get half of it untill I watched it four times this movie is shitty 2 stars
8/05/06 nicolecrom2678 scared the crap out of me!! Great film! 5 stars
1/12/05 Tom Benton Well-done thriller, faintly reminescent of one of Hitchcock's late works. 4 stars
11/17/04 Daragh Michelle Pfieffer is amazing 4 stars
8/19/04 courtney scared the fricking shit out of me a hve to see for thrill seekers 4 stars
6/03/04 Angel Scary, sexy and very, very damp. Beautiful movie. 4 stars
4/19/04 Nevz More like artificially made. Boring! 3 stars
4/11/04 valerie hart this was a good film not like all the other horror movies.(NOT REALLY A TEEN MOVIE) 4 stars
3/08/04 Vince I enjoyed that one 4 stars
1/08/04 A F Oh yeah this was a movie. 2 stars
9/09/03 Laura Stuart James Remar MADE this movie!!!!! 5 stars
7/24/03 Kit Good thriller...better than a stupid slasher film any day 4 stars
7/18/03 Chris It's not only how scary it is but how it scares you. Artfully made, directed, and acted. 4 stars
6/14/03 Alice Great Thriller, Good one ! 5 stars
4/22/03 Jenny Tullwartz Pfeiffer her usual portrait of mediocrity; Ford would better be left typecast as a hero. 3 stars
4/09/03 JL this movie kicked ass!! 5 stars
3/22/03 Jack Sommersby Flawed but pretty suspenseful when needed. Ludicrous ending, though. 3 stars
12/28/02 Rayna Kuzio I love a good ghost film... 4 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Obvious horror dressed up with money 3 stars
9/24/02 I Can't Swim Belongs on USA Network w/Tim Matheson & Sally Kirkland 1 stars
9/10/02 Ashley Stinson Hitchcock had a great influence on this film. 5 stars
9/09/02 Ben Wasden What Lies Beneath made me jump and I enjoyed it much more than the Sixth Sense. 5 stars
7/20/02 ! Unpredictable, good film 4 stars
7/12/02 KMG Moves slower than a constipated turd 3 stars
4/23/02 Danielle Ophelia Not a bone-crushing fall, but definitely a slight stumble. 3 stars
4/14/02 Shrike Interesting, but on a middle level 3 stars
4/04/02 cat really scary! I never guessed the ending...for once. 5 stars
3/14/02 Valerie Cameron Harrison Ford demonstrates that some performers are better left typecast. 3 stars
2/05/02 femmemina and u thought it's left me with mouth agape 4 stars
1/17/02 David A. Really great ghost story--spooky, suspensful, and intelligent. Aquatic effect was original. 5 stars
1/13/02 Andrew Carden Other Then Zemeckis's Direction, This Movie Falls Apart Instantly. 2 stars
1/13/02 breeze4sd great film 5 stars
12/01/01 Mark Conway Total utter pish, fell asleep twice while watching it, predictable plot. 1 stars
11/27/01 sdfr Two leads' Hollywood star profile kinda ruins this one. Fitfully interesting only. 3 stars
10/09/01 Mark Conway this was a crap movie, with no scares at all. 2 stars
9/07/01 Gary Pfieffer is excellent, the direction and cinematography are great, but an overall letdown. 3 stars
9/03/01 Butterbean I've always wanted to see Pfeiffer and Ford together. I guess this film will have to do. 3 stars
8/31/01 Bada Bing Crosby I must have seen the shitty version-movie is so awful I can't believe it 1 stars
8/31/01 Hooker with a Penis A cool movie, kinda Hitchcockian in overall style... Therefore good. 4 stars
8/08/01 Mr. Hat Really suspenseful and heart-pounding. Like a revised "Fatal Attraction." 4 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Some of it kicked ass, most of it sucked ass...I'll go average. 3 stars
5/25/01 I love movies imagine this movie without the big name actors - they'd only show it on TV 3 stars
4/25/01 TigerDream Too slow, too predictable, and not very scary at all 2 stars
4/21/01 Monday Morning HF actually tries some acting. That's worth a point. Otherwise, a SLOW movie. 3 stars
4/18/01 Robbo OK But dont believe the hype its just not scary! 3 stars
4/09/01 ChErRyRiPe Very good, a bit slow but the end was great! 4 stars
3/09/01 The Evil Penguin scarier than Poltergeist 5 stars
3/08/01 Sanja I didn't expect this. 4 stars
3/08/01 Sanja I didn't expect this. 5 stars
2/16/01 Del R This could be shown on the lifetime network "Men bad, Women good" 4 stars
2/13/01 CJ O' Callaghan What the fuck is wrong with u'r reviewers!?- this is a great horror film- scary as hell ! 5 stars
2/09/01 DREDD ending is too typical and overplayed 3 stars
2/06/01 John Lyons First horror movie I've been excited about in a long time! 5 stars
2/02/01 The Bomb 69 very slow the first half, picked up somewhat but the ending was drawn out 3 stars
2/01/01 Dan Waldman Suspicion + Vertigo+Rear Window +Diabolique 4 stars
1/11/01 Matt69 All style no substance. Ford and Pfieffer keep it from sucking ass 2 stars
12/31/00 Mic Shooting quite good, writing quite bad (examples of both: the ending) 3 stars
12/17/00 Connoisseur it's all cliche... but well done! 4 stars
12/14/00 Kook Cliche. 2 stars
12/14/00 Tom Though a little slow, the ending is climactic, and a great new role for Ford. Great Film! 5 stars
12/03/00 scott wahls full of surprises but moved a little slow, not for those with ADD 4 stars
11/22/00 Ken Sherwood Brilliant, Gripping 5 stars
11/19/00 viking "The Sixth Sense" meets "Psycho" 3 stars
11/17/00 Beck I don't usually scare easily but this made me jump and kept me on the edge of my seat! 4 stars
11/11/00 Matthew Bartley Dull in places but very scary in others 4 stars
11/11/00 C.Chew it's not really that fantastic, but yet not that bad either. so it's up to u to decide! 3 stars
10/25/00 YOUR Movie Expert The Sixth Sense rip-offs have started, this one's slow and has a terrible ending. 1 stars
10/24/00 Gray Stupid score and crappy ending but brilliantly made and does have its shocks. 4 stars
10/05/00 Jackie What Lies Beneath is AWESOME!! I think this movie made me jump about ten times. Great movie 5 stars
9/19/00 Tim A good movie, but there should be a 2 minute warning so you can leave before the ending 4 stars
9/17/00 Leena Varkey Only the cast is good!! 3 stars
9/08/00 Tdis72 Very good movie. Michelle and Harrison does a good job in this shocking thriller. 5 stars
8/09/00 Bueller I was expecting something very Hitchcockian. I was entertained, but seriously disappointed. 3 stars
8/08/00 chris I thought it was cool but who ever wrote it should go back to comic books. 4 stars
8/02/00 IBDN Good until the ending 4 stars
8/01/00 PJ Trish, I too have never screamed ever, but I yelled out" OH God"! I got scared, great movie 5 stars
7/31/00 Fenris Harrison Ford makes it worth the money! 5 stars
7/31/00 Philm Phreak zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 2 stars
7/30/00 my2cents this film was extremely poor 1 stars
7/27/00 extar-bags Good; in the hitchcock style. Worth paying for, even! 4 stars
7/27/00 Eric Hodel Lots of good twists, nearly got my arm ripped off 4 stars
7/26/00 Alexandra the suspense nearly slaughtered me. 5 stars
7/25/00 Krystal Great Movie! 5 stars
7/25/00 Vesse Best movie I've seen all summer!!! 5 stars
7/25/00 Trish Edwards I actually screamed at one point - I NEVER do that! 5 stars
7/24/00 Poetcdh Totally Predictable "surprises" 2 stars
7/22/00 Matt Thiel Left me with a bad taste in my mouth that poisons the rest of the film. 2 stars
7/22/00 Al Hitchcock Loved this film!!! 5 stars
7/22/00 Ginger it scared the shit out of me 5 stars
7/22/00 Rue the Whirl too many tired "scare" tactics, but otherwise engaging enough to keep your attention 4 stars
7/14/00 **~**Persnickety**~** this movie is fucking great, the ending totally took me by surprise! harrison rules! 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum



  02-Nov-2000 (M)

Directed by
  Robert Zemeckis

Written by
  Clark Gregg

  Harrison Ford
  Michelle Pfeiffer
  Wendy Crewson
  James Remar
  Joe Morton
  Miranda Otto

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast