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Oh man!! What a fun movie! Without giving too much away, it's a ghost movie.
The plot wasn't anything to write home about, it's been done about 100 times
before, but it was just done better than it has been in recent memory. Seems
that movies try to over-do everything lately with special effects, gore,
music and violence. Not here... I kept thinking that they had taken a step
back and returned to what makes movies spooky. It's not a computer generated
demon, or a high intensity soundtrack; it's a creaky door, it's a reflection
in the glass, it's that feeling when you know you just pushed that chair in
a minute ago and now it's away from the table again. That's what makes
people uneasy, that's what makes them check their closets and sleep with the
hall light on when they go home.
The most notable difference in the movie was the silence. I'd guess that about 50% of the movie was completely silent except for breathing, footsteps, creaking doors... wonderful. Seems that lately the powers-that-be just have to fit every second of the soundtrack into the movie (seems they should since now-a-days there's commercials for the soundtrack separate from the movie in many cases) in order to boost the spooky level... it rarely works. The silence in the movie just added to that tension in your shoulders and made you slowly edge up on your seat.
If I had to pick anything to complain about, it'd be the weak foreshadowing of two events, I don't want to give anything away, but you'll know when you see it. It's like they gave up on trying to write them into the plot. They may as well have put a subtitle on the screen (or a "Pop Up Video" bubble) that told you that what they were saying was important. For my wife and I, it gave a bit away about how the movie was likely to end.
Michelle Pfeiffer was really good, I'd guess she was in almost every single shot in the film, so anything but a great performance would have shown. I'm not normally one to judge actors performances, but there's some credit to be given to someone who can act that scared using only her eyes. I wouldn't be surprised if she gets a nod at the academy for this one.
It is interesting to revisit the archived reviews available at
EbertandRoeper.tv and listen
to their comments regarding this film and their perception of its ability to
technical construction, and its characters' success in aiding the narrative.
Each of the
respective critics dislike What Lies Beneath in both its construction
plot development) and its effectiveness in creating suspense. While this
enjoyable regardless of whether it was viewed on opening weekend or whether
it is the
third or fourth viewing on television, it is more understandable that Ebert
had some issues with the film during its theatrical release (whether they
their views upon its DVD release, I do not know). The true beauty of this
film is the
manner in which it holds up over time and how it DOES splice all of the
techniques together into a nice homage to classic suspense
The plot, including the incremental revelations of paranormal activities within the newly gone-off-to-college childless home of Pfeiffer and Ford, is not really what drives this movie. Ebert and Roeper complained in their critiques that there are too many red herrings that serve no purpose but to mislead the audience; thus, when they are exposed as mere ruses, much of their existence within the film is superfluous. But that is the fun of the movie. That is the fun of many classic suspense films, even numerous Hitchcock films. There are situations that are added because they lend a hand in the build-up fear, not the characters' fears, but the viewers' fears. In Psycho, the image of the cop's face outside Leigh's car window, masked by sunglasses, expressionless, and looming over the camera is scary to viewers. Yes it fits into the script because she is frightened as a result of her thievery. But ultimately, it is the viewers' own fear of cops' intimidation tactics that makes the scene effective. In What Lies Beneath, hearing cries of distress through a fence that offers no real visibility of the cause of such pangs is very similar. Who cares if it is mainly a device to build uneasiness?
To be fair, Ebert and Roeper really seemed more irritated that too much of the plot and its elements of mystery were revealed in the marketing of the film . The true cause of the haunting that Pfeiffer's characters is terrorized by was apparently revealed rather blatantly in the trailers and television spots used to promote the film. Therefore, Ebert and Roeper seemed more angry that they were not even given the chance to enjoy the unfolding of the plot and the subsequent suspense. However, it is only know that their argument seems to be more fallacious in its use of logic. I understand that each person has a reaction to a film based on the uniqueness of their own likes, dislikes, and inclinations to genre, but there is an established set of framing techniques, camera movements, and lighting designs that reliably cause an emotional reaction by the viewers. It is very hard to find Ebert and Roeper's critiques impervious to default when this film does not tend to lose much of its emotional effects upon repeat viewings.
To elaborate, the unknown ghost, its motivation, and its history and relevance to Claire (Pfieffer) are plot points for the basic construction of a three act narrative; and, a three act narrative is a contrivance proved to be effective for the assimilation of information by means of tapping into the inherent way humans use logic to invent concepts from raw data (if a, then b, and if b, then c: therefore if a, then c). Subsequently, the artist now has a template on which to attach the expressions of humanity that create the emotional impact of the film (or play, etc.). In a sense, the structure of What Lies Beneath is very simple and only attempts to create a large enough template to succeed in allowing the viewer to follow the basic arc of the narrative. The strength of the film exists in the the technical construction and how precisely orchestrated it is to get the most emotional impact from the various moments in the film. Watching the film for the third or fourth time, the plot isn't new or exciting, the characters aren't complex, yet the film is still suspenseful. It is not the unfolding of the story creating all the suspense; rather, it is Zemeckis's camera use, his choices for sound and light design, and his ability to precisely coordinate a myriad of elements that enables the film to work as a whole. This is not a film that would survive on its script. This is not a film that would survive by its stars alone. This film succeeds because of the choices in direction.
Finally, to counter Ebert and Roeper's unsound critiques of this film, attention should be paid to their mention of films that they found parallel to What Lies Beneath, whether thematic or visually reminiscent in some way. Roeper states that the movie has too many cliches and that the ending is reminiscent of Carrie, Cape Fear, and even Gone with the Wind. On the other side of the aisle, Ebert compares the film to Ghostbusters because of moments he found comedic that were not intended to be so (although I don't find any scene unintentionally comedic). The odd aspect of their critiques is the absence of any mention of the numerous shots Zemeckis directly lifted from several of Welles' films and a litany of shot selections that pay homage to Hitchcock. While this movie isn't groundbreaking, it is a great exercise in technique that results in a fun, effective film.
I sat down to watch this film with basically no pre-conceived notions
concerning its plotline (or quality, for that matter.) A little over two
hours later, I was still shivering and shaking. Robert Zemeckis has taken
what is undoubtedly a good (though maybe somewhat predictable) screenplay,
and has lifted it to the level of Hitchcockian genius. My eyes bugged out,
my skin crawled, my breath got short, and I couldn't have torn myself away
even if the Publisher's Clearing House Prize Patrol was at my door.
Along with a great story and masterful directing, this movie features the superb performance of Michelle Pfeiffer. Ambivalent about her acting skills in the past, I am now a full-fledged Pfeiffer fan. Harrison Ford is certainly adequate, and this role is a refreshing change for him, but Michelle steals the show.
Good ghost stories are few and far between. Even "Stir Of Echoes" and "The Sixth Sense", fine films that they are, don't compare to the perfect blend of soundtrack, plot twists, camerawork and performance that make up "What Lies Beneath". If goosebumps are your thing, don't miss this one.
When I went to the cinema to watch this movie,I expected it to be another big-budget Hollywood garbage.After the seance I was pleasantly surprised.I saw "Scream 3" some days ago and that movie wasn't nowhere near as scary as "What Lies Beneath".Great performances by Michelle Pfeiffer(she looks really gorgeous in this one)and Harrison Ford.The climax is absolutely terrifying(especially the bathtub sequence).Plenty of suspense and shocks,wonderful atmosphere of dread and fear.Finally after never-ending strain of lame slasher flicks a truly suspenseful movie.Check it out if you dare.Highly recommended.
A good old-fashioned scary movie, avoiding irony and self-referentialism at every turn, this film relies on a nice premise and some well-executed creepy atmosphere for its impact. Pfeiffer and Ford work well together as a middle-aged couple, with Pfeiffer particularly effective as the homey (though obviously ridiculously beautiful) mother left alone when her daughter heads off to college, working herself up into a panic at various, vaguely spooky goings-on around the place. The film plays its cards close to its chest throughout, working the old game of keeping the audience guessing for a good while ? is there really something supernatural going on, is it some kind of creepy but human plot, or is it all in her head? Of course it's all revealed in the end, in a solidly scary, thrilling and well-executed finale. A classic it ain't, but it has a kind of workmanlike, reliable quality oozing out of every scene.
Unlike most movies that are "supposed" to be scary, or suspenseful, this one actually pulls it off. I'm not saying you'll lose any sleep over this movie, but it definitely has parts where you'll jump or at least get startled perhaps. Many critics felt this movie was predictable, but I disagree, and even though the story is nothing groundbreaking, it still has some originality. Great acting from Harrison Ford and Michelle Phiffer really make this movie what it is...A good thriller. They convey the feelings very well. Robert Zemeckis is also a great director and the angles he uses in this film help give it that extra mysteriousness. The movie is also driven by its great soundtrack, reminiscant of Psycho-esque music. The movie is not exactly scary, but it is a little freaky. I enjoyed this movie a lot and its really worth the rental and if you can watch these kinds of movies over and over again and enjoy them, then its worth the purchase.
Robert Zemeckis' homage to Hitchcock (funny how we always say 'homage' and not 'plagiarism') concerns a married couple, their spooky new house, a suspicious neighbor...and enough red herrings to weigh down any commercially-viable product. Still, I was hooked for about a third of the way (once the wife supernaturally took on the persona of a missing woman and seduced her husband with a little licking and biting, I began losing faith). By the finale, so many gimmicks are being thrown at the screen, it just becomes an upscale B-flick. All the inconsistencies aside, one has to applaud Michelle Pfeiffer for her gratifying performance; even though the entire subplot about Pfeiffer's neighbor leads nowhere, she is very appealing walking up to the man in public and calling him a "murdering son-of-a-b*tch". Harrison Ford is fairly solid as well, until the last act which leaves both he and Michelle completely rudderless. That's when the filmmakers go overboard and sink this suspense-thriller in a sea of slick desperation. **1/2 from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer star in this chilling film full of twists, suspense and deceit. Directed by award-winning Robert Zemeckis, What Lies Beneath tells the terrifying story of a husband's dreadful secret that should have remained in the past.
Set in a modern day country town, during autumn, sets the very eerie scene for where the apparently, happily married couple Claire Spencer (Pfeiffer) and Norman Spencer (Ford) encounter paranormal illusions and the truth about Norman's affair with a younger woman whom he murdered.
Zemeckis has done very well in making the movie a classic thriller, as well as keeping the audience in suspense. He has done this with the use of the very many clichés of a thriller. He heightens the tensions throughout the movie by gradually lowering the camera, creating a very claustrophobic atmosphere which works in harmony with the terrifying, jumpy music.
The acting in the movie is of the highest quality and Pfeiffer is admired for her superb performance, which creates a strong sense of vulnerability to the role and entices the audience. The casting of Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford as a married couple is very convincing and genuinely believable.
What Lies Beneath is a very frightening and scary movie with all the traits of a classic thriller. With the excellent casting of Pfeiffer and Ford, along with Zemeckis's excellent techniques of terrifying the audience, it is truly a great film.
What Lies Beneath is a great movie. Its a horror movie which has less gore
and more screams which works very effectively. The plot goes along at a
steady un nerving pace which is great.
The references to some movies are so obvious and the music at the end was
used in Psycho.
This is one of the best horror movies i have seen in quite a while. If you
dont see it you must see it or rent the video or better still...buy
It really is great and faultless. Harrison Ford and Michelle Phieffer are a
great on screen couple and they couldnt have got a better couple to
If you like this try:
House on Haunted Hill
This is the most suspenseful thriller I have seen in the past year. As a refreshing change to more formulaic chillers, WLB takes its time to build the suspense. It is allowed to do this by virtue of Harrison Ford, and, especially, Michelle Pfeiffer, who, I feel, deserved an Oscar nomination for her convincing portrayal of a happy, but suddenly lonely, wife. It is just about as Hitchcockian as you can get, and I rate the bath sequence as gripping (pardon the pun) as taking a shower at the Bates Motel. The plot is thin and the action is played out sedately. Yet it seems perfectly timed in setting the mood of the whole piece. I particularly liked the music,and the supporting actress Diana Scarwid, whose lighthearted attitude during the seance scene made it all the more chilling. A perfect example of good film-making with only a slight plot. I am sure this movie will mature with age until it is rightfully regarded as a modern classic. Count the number of times you jump!
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