55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2005
Robert Zemeckis makes his homage to Hitchcock in What Lies Beneath, starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
The Spencer's -Claire and Norman- are a supposedly happy and successful marriage. He is a prominent scientist, she's an ex musician that just left her only daughter at college. Free time takes Mrs. Spencer to spy on her neighbors, and from that activity she believes that a crime has been perpetrated next door. Insecure and nervous, Claire's paranoia grows as a series of paranormal events take place in her perfect home: doors open and close, electrical equipment turn on automatically, spectral visions in the bathtub. Are all these things related? That's one of the many secrets the movie hides.
A lonely home, secrets trying to be revealed, darkness, ghosts and the impending sensation that we are not sure what our eyes are seeing, What Lies Beneath has enough elements to hook you up for a scary time. Zemeckis takes advantage from every trick, cliche and ideas to spice the story, until he leaves us with a terrible deja vu sensation. The result is a supernatural thriller cleverly built, part psychological, part ghost story.
And one could very well wonder, when Michelle Pfeiffer sees a spectral reflex on the water, if the ghost we are seeing is indeed Mr Hitchcock.
As soon as the credits vanish, we take a walk from moments of Rear Window, Suspicion, Vertigo and even Psycho. The cinematic references overwhelm us, from the lead man's name, the disturbing music score, the movie's rhythm, the creepy house alone on a hill. Hitch's fans will enjoy tremendously this tribute
Pfeiffer and Ford are two stars talented and very charismatic, whose performances give more depth to the story. Pfeiffer, above all, is very convincing as the housewife victim of a series of inexplicable events. Her terror and her pain are very truthful. Ford is somewhat relegated to a second place.
In the end, the secrets that hide What Lies Beneath are not so interesting. The excess of subplots, tributes and tricks make the movie into a series of brilliant moments that are bigger than the whole. For the entertaining time, we can thank Zemeckis. For the suspense and fear that comes from our inner souls, let's thank Hitchcock, the man that understood that, in a good story, there must lie beneath secrets and emotions too scary to be revealed ever.
51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2000
In a time in which good horror/suspense movies are few and far between, Robert Zemeckis brings us a wonderfully and surprisingly taut and well-balanced thriller filmed in the grand tradition of the great Alfred Hitchcock. Finally, a horror movie that doesn't rely on fake blood and cheesy special effects to wow the crowd, or attempt to scare the feeble minded. The movie is centered around a couple, recently moved, who has discovered a supernatural presence in their new dwelling. The wife, Claire (played beautifully by Michelle Pfeiffer, in one of the best female performances of the year) believes it to be the ghost of the neighbor she suspects has been murdered. The husband, Norman (played well by Harrison Ford) of course, thinks she is crazy. The movie twists and turns around this basic central plot, leading to an ending that, although not terrible, I'm still not quite buying. The greatness of the movie comes not from the plot, but from the style in which the film was created. Some of the devices are a bit overused (a door opens mysteriously about three times too many), but not too much as to distract the viewer. There are some great scenes that, although clichéd, (there's a wonderful scene that borrows heavily from Rear Window) work beautifully and really instill a sense of apprehension in the viewer. Also, Zemeckis utilizes silence to build suspense where a lesser director might use the old disonant-music-crescendos-into-a-big-loud-scare tactic that we see all too often in horror movies. Somewhere along the way, the line between horror movies and slasher films has blurred. It seems now that if you want to scare people, all you need is some fake blood and a knife. This movie proves that something can still be scary without dumbing it down.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2001
What Lies Beneath
Beware of the trailer for What Lies Beneath! If you want to see the film and not know what's going to happen, you must stay away from all adverts of this classy, hip thriller. I, fortunately, knew nothing about the movie when I went to see it, so I was lucky. But, if you see the trailer, you'll be able to guess the end twist within the first second. However, once you keep yourself darned away from that advertisement, your on the right track, and are sure to like this chilling and thought-provoking film.
Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford), a university research scientist, is growing more and more concerned about his wife, Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer), a retired concert cellist who a year ago was involved in a serious auto accident, and who has just sent off her daughter Caitlin (Norman's stepdaughter) to college. Now, Claire reports hearing voices and witnessing eerie occurrences in and around their lakeside Vermont home, including seeing the face of a young woman reflected in water. An increasingly frightened Claire thinks the phenomena have something to do with the couple living next door, especially since the wife has disappeared without apparent explanation. At her husband's urging, Claire starts to see a therapist; she tells him she thinks the house is being haunted by a ghost. His advice? Try to make contact. Enlisting the help of her best friend, Jody (Diana Scarwid), and a ouija board, Claire seeks to find out the truth of What Lies Beneath.
At the very, very end the film kinds of drains away and leaves us with something a little more lifeless than the first hour and a half, but, flaws aside, What Lies Beneath is an excellent film. However, to call it a film or a movie is underestimating this thriller - it's more of an experience. What Lies Beneath's spooks and scares will practically traumatise you for the coming days. It's a truly horrifying piece of cinema, behind The Exorcist as the scariest film of all time. I couldn't stop jumping out of my seat and my face was pale when I came out of the cinema. It may not have the brilliance of The Exorcist, but it certainly has the style, the high performance level and the true smell of sheer horror that The Exorcist had included in 1973.
Not for everyone, but for people who want a lot of fun as well as a lot of seriously sweaty scares, What Lies Beneath is the perfect night out.
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2001
Robert Zemeckis gives us this non stop thrill ride starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. The story is about a couple (Ford and Pfeiffer) who's only child recently moves off to college leaving the two by themselves in a new home. The story quickly leaves that norm when the house turns out to be haunted by some sort of spiritual being. The film vaguely resembles a good Hitchcock movie with its' great work of shadows and an evil yet terrifying scene with a bath tub. The movie has a few surprises and scares that you don't expect which gives you more than enough reason to check this one out.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2000
First of all I want to say that this movie is wonderful.Its story is well writen as it has seen on movie.The relation between the Ford and Pfeiffer is well acted you can not imagine anything what was happenning in it.Also Its picture and effects are so perfect designed also the music is so well.Besides I want to mentioned that the last 30 minutes are so scary and bumping.It makes people jump 20 inches.Don't You Believe Me.See it with your own eyes and understand what I am talking about.Lastly everyone especially collectors should own one . Strictly Recommended !!!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2001
Norman and Claire Spencer (Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer) are a happily married couple whose lives are about to change.
Settling in a new home, and coming to grips with her daughter going off to college, Claire, will begin to see ghostly images, and hear voices...this will escalate to doors opening, computers turning on by themself, and horrifying personal messages.
At first, Claire, attributes these things to stress, but when they become all too-real she begins investigating the clues that are being given to her.
It seems the disappearance of a young girl (the beautiful Amber Valletta) who bears a striking resemblence to Claire, is somehow connected to this family, and her ghost will not rest until until someone pays for their sins.
"What Lies Beneath" is a superb shocker, that grabs the viewer immediately and pulls them on a 2 hour ride of supernatural thrills and chills. Although the trailer gave away more information than it should have, I will not...leaving all the shocks intact in the film.
Great acting, great scares, and great direction make for a very entertaining movie experience.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2005
Making a good movie of a ghost story is a ticklish business. There is a vast but treacherous chasm between Terror and Horror, and few can navigate it successfully, for Terror is the subtler art of the two, a fact attested to by the rarity of truly terrifying movies about Haunts.
Think about that for a minute. While there are scores of excellent Horror movies awash in buckets of blood and gore that I would happily watch again and again, you can count the truly successful cinematic Ghost Tale on one hand. Why are Ghost Stories, which are the pinnacle of trule tales of Terror, so difficult to put on film?
I think it has something to do with the nature of what terrifies, as opposed to what horrifies: Horror is a visceral and visual art, which repulses and horrifies by sight. Terror, on the other hand, is heightened by the unseen far more than the seen. The good Ghost Tale is the haunt of the guttering candle, the shape in the shadows, the thunderous knock on the wall of an empty room in an empty castle, the dimly heard footstep treading up a lonely stairwell.
Only a few films have gotten this delicate balance right: the original "The Haunting," Amenabar's superbly chilling "The Others", M. Night Shyamalan's "Sixth Sense", and the criminally underrated "The Haunting of Julia", the last of which is not available even on VHS! To this short list of worthy Terror films, I would add, without hesitation, Robert Zemeckis's superb little excursion in sheer spooky fright "What Lies Beneath."
Yes, Zemeckis has studded this simple, frightful little tale with all manner of homages to Alfred Hitchcock, including nice little nods to "Rope", "Vertigo", "Rear Window", and "Suspicion". But Zemeckis, a seasoned and skilled director who has a few trips to the Crypt under his belt, is not overly pleased with his cleverness; instead he spins out a crisply paced, beautifully filmed (cinematography by Don Burgess, who worked on "Terminator 3", "Bourne Identity" and "Forrest Gump")little movie that builds from a lurking sense of unease to a shrieking crescendo of full-bodied terror.
The story is simple. Dr. Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford, grizzled and effectively obtuse) and his wife Claire (played by the always lovely Michelle Pfeiffer) are empty nesters. Their daughter has gone off to college, Dr. Spencer has his genetics research, and Claire---well, Claire has the summer house on the lake, memories, and a little too much time to herself.
Claire quickly becomes caught up in the silence of the lake house, and the profusion of her memories---particularly some she has lost, or possibly buried. And what of her mysterious, reclusive, slightly sinister neighbors? What of the brusque professor-next-door's wife (played briskly by Miranda Otto, who even musters up her frightened eye in service of scares), who evidently lives in fear of her husband? And what of her sudden disappearance during a rainstorm?
Worse still, what of the whispered voices in the house, doors slamming shut, and the bathtub filling up by itself?
All classically spooky stuff, but all legendarily difficult stuff to get right if you want to truly creep the audience out. Zemeckis does it, littering the path to the white-knuckled conclusion (why, on the lake, of course...where else?) with red herrings and a bucketload of ghastly little moments designed to make your bones creep and tingle.
But the pleasure of this journey is the getting there, and Zemeckis realizes that the best horror is painted on a palette of silence. "What Lies Beneath" benefits from its studied atmosphere of the malevolent. And when the Spook appears, as in all good Terror Tales it must, it is deliriously scary.
"What Lies Beneath" joins a select group of truly creepy terrifying films, and like the other members of that good company, this movie is ideal for a storm-swept weekend night with you, a blanket, a cup of hot spiced tea, and a warm and stoic cat.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2001
I'm quite a movie buff, and right now this is in my top ten favorite movies. I don't just watch new movies, I grew up with the classics, especially Hitchcock. I think that there's defidently a major likeness to some of Hitchcocks classics, a very all around, well done movie. I've always liked Harrison Ford, and when Michelle Pfiefer has a good role, she plays the part wonderfully. She gives the movie a haunting glow, partly because you aren't always completely sure what's going on in the movie; you'll have a really scary part, then the next part seems normal, like nothing out of the ordinary just happened. The entire movie, you really want to like Harrison Fords character, but towards the end, it get harder and harder to look at him with a good guy aspect, you're just not sure any more. My favorite part of the movie, is the fact that the screen shots are amazing, truly amazing, the acting could have stank, but with those screen views, it wouldn't matter. Harrison Ford should do more movies with Michelle, they really had a magical shine on screen together. I saw this movie on DVD, which made it even more amazing. Just one tip, don't watch it alone!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2006
What Lies Beneath is a stylish supernatural thriller that guarantees the viewer to be kept anxiously on the edge of their seat. Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford provide the star power for this ghost story with a twist and as well as making a most attractive all American (supposedly ideal) couple, do a good job of driving the dramatic tension and suspense along with suitable pace and expression. Another very stylish star of this film is its setting and design. The stately, Vermont, lake side home, provides a visual feast and perfect setting and atmosphere for a haunting. In particular the somewhat gothic looking Victorian style bathroom, with its deep old fashioned bathtub. Along with the lake it provides the focus for much of the film's pivotal action and creepy apparitions. Adding to its classy set design and camera direction, is some very tight and creative editing which pulls the story and drama together in a fluid montage of scenes that unravel the plot in a timely and appropriate way. If the first half of the film seems a little drawn out, then I think it needs to be to in order to provide an effective depiction of Claire's gradual and frightening revelations. It also provides suitable build up and contrast to the final more melodramtic, action packed terror at the films climax. The original musical score played throughout the film is also suitably chilling and atmospheric in all the right places.
This (along with 'Frantic') is one of Harrison Ford's best performances in my view. There is a disturbing naturalness in the way he disguises and then later attempts to justify his character 'Norman's' past deeds, that seems very realistic. Michelle Pfeiffer, who carries the majority of the film, is also very good but at times comes close to being in 'over acting territory' in that some of her reactions and expressions appear a little posed somehow. She always has presence however, and her face in all its chiselled, classic beauty, was made for the big screen. How does a woman clothed and submerged in a filled bathtub manage to look that beautiful I ask you?
Even though I know what's coming I can still watch this movie many times just to take in the stylishly chilling atmosphere and setting, shot against the backdrop of that magnificent house and lake.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Yes, Harrison Ford receives top billing, and he does a creditable job in his role as stuffy professor Norman Spencer. But, let's face it---this movie belongs to the superb Michelle Pfeiffer, in an overlooked, should have been Oscar nominated performance. Michelle portrays Norman's wife, Clare, a woman who has seemingly had a difficult year since a strange auto accident the year before the movie starts. First thing you know she's sure that their new neighbor has killed his bizzare wife. And, what's worse, a ghost is haunting Michelle, and she's sure it's the wife's ghost that's doing it.
Aha...that's just the start. Robert Zemeckis, like Brian DePalma, pays homage to the great Alfred Hitchcock in this really spooky film. Unlike DePalma, however, Zemeckis doesn't copy Hitch, but translates his style into Zemecki's own. It's a brilliant directorial effort, again worthy of an Oscar nomination. Diana Scarwid as Jody, Clare's friend, is also superb in a supporting role, bringing a little bit of humor and pizzazz to Clare's spooky life.
The plot twists and turns, in spite of the movie's trailer revealing something it shouldn't have, but it still works, thanks to the dominance of Pfeiffer in the leading role. Her "possession" by the ghost reveals a sensual sexiness few actresses can pull off as convincingly.
The visual effects are stunning, and the last thirty minutes or so of the movie is spine-tingling in its intensity. A real winner of a movie, that demonstrates that Harrison and Michelle are not over the hill. This movie made well over a hundred million, and it's one of the best spook stories in recent years.