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Overall Rating

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

8 reviews, 98 user ratings

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What Lies Beneath
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by Wacoshade

"Don't worry about the ad campaign; the movie bites."
1 stars

Much has been made of the revealing trailers of What Lies Beneath, and indeed, aside from one 'revelation' at the end, the trailers ruin every secret in the movie. But, the really bad thing is this: every single 'surprise' is completely predictable anyway! Apart from a scant number of shots exhibiting Robert Zemeckis' technical finesse as director, this movie seeps from the Hollywood compost heap of straight-to-video second-hand B-movie cast-offs. The pacing is slow and boring, the acting is sleepily tolerable, the score is annoyingly unoriginal, and the plot is a snooze. Even if the trailer had not given so much away, a dozen monkeys with half a ouija board could've pieced this hack plot together.

I can't quite tell if What Lies Beneath was meant to be a pseudo-tribute to Hitchcock or just another unoriginal entry in the haunted-murder mystery genre that happened to copy bits of Hitchcock. Zemeckis not only steals from the master of suspense, but he manages to recreate almost every annoying horror movie cliché in the damn book. He may do an excellent job of it, but that hardly matters unless you've never seen a horror movie in your entire life.

Michelle (I wish I had a boob job and a tight t-shirt and could get chased around by a fisherman with a hook instead of a dumb ghost) Pfeiffer and Harrison (not only am I too cool for this movie, I'm too cool to comb my hair) Ford are Claire and Norman Spencer, a married couple who live in a beautiful waterfront house outside a college town in Vermont. She is a doting mother who was once a gifted cellist, and he is a renowned geneticist who is caught up in his work. Their daughter (actually HER daughter - for what little it's worth) has gone off to college, leaving Claire alone and sad, only to find that spooky things begin to happen around the house. Something is haunting Claire, and its purpose is certainly dangerous.

But, what a house. As a homeowner, it took me a half hour to get over just how picturesque that house really is. The kitchen is gorgeous, the master bedroom is gargantuous, the main bathroom is almost enviable, and the garden is magnificent. There are windows all over the house, making it fairly well lit and airy. The house is straight out of Better Homes & Gardens, and it was sometimes more interesting than the movie. Anyway...

First, let's play "count the Hitchcock reference." I think I counted specific references (more than one for each film, too, and not counting the overall theme to the flick) to at least 5 of Hitch's films. The most obvious and also the most obnoxious? Rear Window. The story of their weird next door neighbors ends up as a tiny shard of a plot thread that ends up going nowhere, and if you've seen the trailer, that whole subplot will just annoy you once you realize it has nothing to do with anything (although when it is 'resolved', there is a funny little joke at a party that might make you grin). There are also obvious textures of Psycho and a few other classics that this movie doesn't deserve to allude. Even Alan Silvestri's ridiculous score is like an pitiful imitation of Bernard Hermann on a bad day.

Let's put it this way, my wife is not a huge Hitchcock fan, but when she heard a particular musical strain in the movie, she even said, and I quote, "What's with the Psycho music?" Not because it was harsh or grating like Hermann's fascinating score from the 1960 movie, but because the music sounded almost EXACTLY like the theme from the 1960 movie, except wrecked somehow. It sounds like Silvestri vanilla-iced Hermann's theme (and if you don't know what that means, you will if you see the movie).

Secondly, shall we play "count the horror clichés?" I don't think directors realize that most audiences are now accustomed to the tense moments which focus on one character who suddenly turns and is startled by someone standing right there. "We see it coming, thus it loses its shock value, Bob!" Not only is the trick done countless times, Zemeckis actually tries to VARY that trick, with a character appearing suddenly - behind a refrigerator door, in a mirror, in a misty apparition etc; once it happens, we wait for it and expect it ourselves… Other clichés: the heroine who no one will believe and is thought as slightly insane, the obligatory dead person who's not really dead (happens 3 times!), obvious red herrings galore (ruined by the trailer), phone ringing that startles everyone (done a few times), doors opening by themselves (happens many times), picture falling off table (happens many times), lit candles blow out by themselves, bathtub fills with water (many times - although one scene is excellently done), dog barking at something unseen, blabbity blah blah, snore.

Some of these things could have been potentially scary. Can't this ghost do anything more than knock things around? Have you ever seen such an ineffective and dull use of a ouija board in your entire life? Why is a filled bathtub scary? Also, a tie-in to the daughter could have been promising, as well as something more significant from the neighbors or Claire's friend with the witchcraft book. And, the "I think she suspects" scene was plodding and dull, but could have potentially been the most riveting scene in the movie.

And, that ending. My oh my. Did the writers just get bored? Maybe they thought that if the big budget producers would buy off on the first hour and a half, why not sluff off that last half hour? Aside from the fact that the ending was shot very well, it is a waste of time and completely ludicrous.

Now, there are a couple of brief moments that are interesting in this movie. In one of those cliché moments, a slow tense shot with Pfeiffer walking down a dock is shattered by a phone ringing, and the family dog goes running off as if the only one with any sense, including us in the audience. That scene actually drew a hefty amount of chuckles from the audience. Another entertaining scene involves a bathroom sink, someone's forehead, and a mighty thud that will at first genuinely startle you (the only really shock I got in the entire movie) then have you wincing or laughing (I winced then I laughed). There are also a few wonderful shots in the last 20 minutes of the movie that go to show us that Zemeckis has a definite flair with the camera. In a better movie, I would more fully appreciate Zemeckis' uses of camera angles, mirrors, and sweeping pans.

Also, I must admit that I was relatively impressed with Pfeiffer's performance. She played her character fairly even and restrained, and she wasn't quite as over the top as is too common in these movies. And, Ford, well, he phones in his usual self for most of the flick, although his character develops most interestingly in a way that is uncommon for him and makes you want to see more of that kind of role from him.

But, don't consider that praise. Pfeiffer, Ford, and Zemeckis may show shades of their true talents, but this movie is really inexcusable. I have no idea how a movie like this could get made with a big budget, big stars, and big director and staff. Any horror movie where you laugh at the scariest parts is either a spoof or a disappointment. Guess which one this is.

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originally posted: 07/26/00 09:48:13
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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
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  02-Nov-2000 (M)

Directed by
  Robert Zemeckis

Written by
  Clark Gregg

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

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