Review: “What Lies Beneath”

Did somebody say Hitchcock? Bob Zemeckis seems to have with his latest effort. This supernatural thriller follows a lot of the tricks and styles used by the legendary director – 85-90% of the film is set around an everyday looking middle-upper class home, the lead actress (Pfieffer) appears in almost every scene, and the pace is slow with nothing ‘unusual’ happening within the first 40 minutes.

Despite the fact that first forty minutes kicks off with a red herring of a plot that seems to rip-off a film by, yep Hitchcock, its still watchable with Ford and Pfieffer’s chemistry playing off each other well (their bedroom scene provides some good laughs). When things start to get creepy they do so in a subtle way – whispering, falling pictures, a reflection etc. This second act is the film’s best with the mystery still unexplained and some good jabs of humour whether they be from Pfieffer’s wacky female friend or her conversations with a psychiatrist.

Then comes the third act which again seems to clone another thriller, though surprisingly it ain’t Hitchcock but rather the more modern classic “Fatal Attraction” with the last 20 minutes almost devoid of dialogue. This is where Zemeckis’ visual wizardry comes in with a really creepy looking ghost and his trademark odd camera angles – such as shot where our P.O.V. moves toward Pfieffer collapsed on the ground, and then moves under her so we’re looking upward seeing her face as though the wooden floor had suddenly become transparent.

Despite the classy production values and great talent in front of and behind the camera, the material and suspense of this movie are very cliched and B-grade. All the scares you can see coming a mile off, you can guess exactly what’s going to happen and it does thus lessening the impact – there’s still quite few good jumps anyway.

Besides the aforementioned ripoffs, there’s also elements borrowed from the likes of “The Shining”, and numerous homages to “Psycho” ranging from the extremely similar closing credits music to a scene where Pfieffer falls out of the bathtub pulling the curtain with her (in almost the exact same way Janet Leigh did forty years ago). Water seems to be a big element with lots of scenes set in or around it, including the film’s most memorable sequence in a bathtub which’ll make you probably avoid using one for a few days after seeing this.

On its own the film itself would’ve been a pretty good B-grade horror flick, but with the talent that’s involved in this production its a shame they didn’t try and doing something more original. The elements were all there to create a modern day supernatural legend, instead we get a schlock suspense drama – albeit an expensive looking one.