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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Michelle Pfeiffer
Harrison Ford
Diana Scarwid
James Remar
Miranda Otto.
Directors
Robert Zemeckis.
Screenwriters
Clark Gregg.
Running Time
130 minutes

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What Lies Beneath


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Plot
The seemingly idyllic marriage between Claire Spencer and professor husband Norman begins to fragment when she starts to believe there is a ghost inhabiting their house. As the supernatural occurrences grow in ferocity, it becomes apparent that this strange spirit is not only real, but intent on revealing a terrible secret... One which lies very close to home.


Review
This wildly, but effectively, overwrought thriller - with added horror - arrives touting dazzling credentials: an idea by Steven Spielberg, directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. Under the weight of such a curtain call, the biggest surprise is, perhaps, that what emerges is no masterpiece, but a semi-sophisticated shocker, playfully homaging Hitchcock like a mechanical masterclass in doing ‘genre’. The first hour is great fun.

Slowburning and suggestive, the mystery builds from all directions, with supernatural pointers, strange keys, a neighbour’s wife (Otto) going mysteriously absent, and various hints of a troubled past implying a myriad possibilities. All of it punctuated by classic ‘Gotcha!’ moments and black humour.

Pfeiffer - who carries the movie - looks svelte and vulnerable, and through the slow-slow-quick rhythm nicely evokes the fraught air of a poor soul simultaneously having to question her own sanity and the existence of the paranormal. Ford, who for the most part seems to be taking a surprising back seat, veers deliciously off his well-beaten path - although, for all those lusting after Indy IV, he is starting to look worryingly weatherworn. What we have, then, is a partnership of solid-as-oak stars not even breaking sweat with the demands of their director. Zemeckis, meanwhile, is having a whale of a time playing Hitch: blondes are abused; bathtubs and plugholes given frequent close-ups; while his camera twists and turns with voyeuristic lust. However, after an hour, we’ve been beaten over the head with so many jumps and jolts that they start to verge on the silly. But the skilful use of the motifs of the genre - mirrors, bodybags, water, blood - border on genius. It’s such a shame his heart wasn’t as occupied as his head.

It’s in the midriff that the movie really sags. Domestic trauma takes over, events become talky and flat, while an encouraging red herring is abandoned far too early, and it seems that the much more enticing spooky stuff has just been forgotten. Nevertheless, it swings back round for the finale, a gripping, revelatory piece of artfully constructed schlock. Without giving too much away: a pick-up truck hitched to a yacht, a paralysis-inducing drug, a bathful of chilling water, a long-buried necklace and a decomposing corpse slot together with an almost unbearable sustained tension.

Yet it really doesn’t add up to all that much. What lies beneath this masterful display of audience manipulation is a mightily confused film attempting a slice of everything: tricksy murderous thriller, beyond-the-grave spook story and Sixth Sense-style horror for grown-ups. It’s an enjoyably giddy ride, certainly, but once you’re back from the edge of your seat, you realise most of the creaks and groans are from the decomposing script.


Verdict
An enjoyably spooky thriller.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan


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Average user rating for What Lies Beneath
Empire Star Rating

Brilliant

Highly underrated effort from Robert Zemeckis. Great acting, great subtle FX and camerawork. A terrific thriller that remains gripping eight years after I've seen it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 20:53, 13 October 2008 | Report This Post


Scary And Head-Twisiting!

What Lies Beneath is quite a terrifying film with no gore or a scary serial killer. This is head-twisiting stuff and it pulls you in until you scream for the lady to just run and never look back. Everyone was good in it, though I was surpised that Harrison Ford took this role up. In all, a very good and scary filck that will give you nightmares! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 09:23, 19 June 2008 | Report This Post


... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ianmic at 20:07, 08 June 2006 | Report This Post


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