What Lies Beneath Movie Review

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So far, this summer's supposed blockbusters could have used a free course on filmmaking from Robert Zemeckis.

Lesson number one: Take time to acclimate the audience to the characters. Unlike The Perfect Storm, What Lies Beneath completely absorbs the main character's personalities into the dramatic mix- frailties and all, through an intense look into their psyche, practically forcing the audience to become emotionally attached. This is not an original concept in cinema, but after watching Clooney and Wahlberg jump on that fishing boat and mournfully pronounce their goodbyes as if they already knew the ominous storm was on its way, you can't help but root for the ship to capsize.

Lesson number two: The film should have a pace that at least feels natural. The Patriot is a story about revenge, yet I couldn't shake the dreadful notion of an overly contrived plot, and I could practically smell the "sap" in those birch trees as Mel wreaked havoc. In contrast, the plot in What Lies Beneath is clever throughout, filled with suspense and surprises, each scene linked in perfect transition with the next.

Lesson number three: Less is more! We've seen Braveheart, and now Gladiator and The Patriot in the same summer? Both films were successful, but movie moguls seem to have forgotten that the most exciting and thrilling effects can be found in the main characters' performances. By keeping special effects subtle, What Lies Beneath proves that you can still create a supernatural film that is downright chilling, without all the grandeur.

From his grave, Hitchcock would have given this picture two decrepit thumbs up. Zememckis pulls one straight from the Master of Suspense's hat by casting legends Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer in an eerie and isolated setting, which really allows their performances to resonate throughout.

Set in affluent and rural Vermont, Ford plays Dr. Norman Spencer, a geneticist and professor from Harvard who is on the verge of a breakthrough with a nerve manipulation drug. His wife, Claire (Michelle Pfieffer) has been the pillar of strength in her husband's quest for academic glory, and has even sacrificed her promising music career. Their marriage appears perfect, but ever since a terrible car accident one year earlier, Claire has been facing emotional problems, which makes her the perfect victim to be haunted by an unsettled entity from beyond. Frightened out of her wits by strange phenomena around the house along with the disappearance of a new neighbor's wife, Claire decides to confront what she believes is a ghost haunting the house. What she unearths could cost her her life and that of her husband, as the will for revenge seems able to conquer death.

Michelle Pfeiffer's performance is dazzling. There's something mysterious about the glow of her blue eyes that mesmerizes. Half the time you don't know whether she's possessed, depressed, or just completely loony. Plus, her disconcerting appearance suits the Quixotic setting so perfectly that I found myself truly sympathizing with her plight. Harrison Ford also shows that his judgment in scripts is not permanently kaput after Air Force One and the awful Random Hearts. This role will put him back in my good graces just in time to start more rumors about the next Indiana Jones movie. In addition, screenwriter Clark Gregg deserves credit for putting together a script that is frightening and somehow totally believable.

I have a feeling that What Lies Beneath will be compared to the remake of Cape Fear several years ago. What Lies Beneath is absolutely precise in its production. But it's the puzzling and original plot that will have fans of movies like The Sixth Sense in for another giddy shocker.

Hmmm... Michele, or the laptop?

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What Lies Beneath Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: PG-13, 2000


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