Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer both saw a small slump in their careers last year with the bombs Random Hearts and The Story of Us respectively. They were probably all too pleased when they found out that What Lies Beneath, a spooky horror movie, had earned thirty million in its opening weekend and that their star power still was there. The question is: Is What Lies Beneath as good as the box office says?
The answer is almost. What Lies Beneath is one of the scariest movies I have seen in a long time. It is not that their are ghosts jumping out of the walls every two minutes, but through ninety percent of the movie, it feels as though that is what's going to happen. Robert Zemeckis has skillfully made a movie where the camera makes slow rotations around the characters, letting the audience scoot closer to the edge of their chairs as they never know if in the next second a dead girl is going to appear in the background. The use of sound is also cleverly used; there is one moment when the radio turns on unexpectedly and everyone in the theater jumps. This is what The Haunting should have been like.
This is not to say that there aren't a few scenes that are meant solely to make the audience jump, not just suspense layered upon suspense layered upon suspense. There are just a few "jumpy" scenes spread out throughout the film at certain intervals so that after one passes, just enough time goes by that by the next one, the audience is squirming in their seats waiting for something to happen. One moment like this is a little predictable but scary nonetheless because you know what is going to happen but you don't know exactly when; another moment near the end of the film, on the other hand, catches you completely by surprise and scares the living daylights out of you. That was the first time I had sworn out loud at a movie theater in a while.
So What Lies Beneath is scary. Why the so-so rating? There is nothing wrong with the direction, the acting, and the script, but there is one plot turn that caught me somewhat by surprise, but was also disappointing. I can't explain it at all because it would give away the whole movie, but I was extremely disappointed by this turn of events.
Anyway, I'd like to make one more note on the direction. Like I already said, I really liked the camerawork, but during the third act, this movie obviously pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock. The look of the film and even the music are undoubtedly Hitchcockesque. Is this good? I'm not sure. On one hand, it is done well, but on the other, it is a change of style late in the movie. At this point, the movie stops being scary and turns into more of an action-packed ending, which might not be what some people want. Of course, by this point I might have just been disappointed by the turn of events that this Hitchcock feel seemed sort of weird.
I have mixed feelings about What Lies Beneath. On one side, it has a plot that will disappoint a lot of fans, but on the other hand, this is one creepy movie. I usually don't try to cover my eyes during scary movies, but I was doing that a lot during What Lies Beneath. The movie may not be perfect, but if you want to be scared, go see What Lies Beneath.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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