What Lies Beneath (2000)

WHAT LIES BENEATH pairs marquee d'raws Michelle Pfeiffer and Har-
rison Ford, who we *still* haven't forgiven for RANDOM HEARTS, as 
a weller-to-do Vermont couple whose lovely lakeside home is be-
sieged by "strangeness" after their only child goes off to col-
ege.  (Actually, since the Mrs. is the only one ever home, *she* 
is the chief besiege-ee.)  Early scenes, pre-gotcha, are surpris-
ingly torturous as Pfeiffer and Ford attempt to play an "average 
couple."  (I certainly wasn't prepared for the sight of Indiana 
Jones in a Rolling Stones tee, much less the later medium close-
up of Pfeiffer kneading Ford's doughy, weathered flesh in bed.)  
Director Robert Zemeckis (FORREST GUMP) starts turning the screws 
almost immediately, methodically (if slowly) ratcheting-up the 
suspense using all the old tricks:  self-opening doors, creeping 
camera movements, exaggerated sound effects, objects that sudden-
ly fill the frame, etc.  (Most of the boo's can be seen coming a 
mile off, but, hey, that's half the fun for some.)  Subtexts in-
clude Pfeiffer's character adjusting to the newly emptied nest, 
some nonsense about her having been in an earlier car accident, 
and the later un-closeting of her hubby's skeletons.  (Regrettab-
ly, at least one of the latter is revealed in the trailer.  Good 
God.)  There's also an engaging early subplot, with wifey suspec-
ting the new next-door neighbor of murder most foul.  (That's 
James Remar hiding behind those glasses, shaggy 'do, and Nick 
Nolte beard.)  

Did I mention that the husband is named Norman?  Yup, you *too* 
can play Spot the Hitchcock!  Let's see... there's a wee bit of 
comedy; in small, welcome doses, though never enough to compen-
sate for the film's campy matter-of-fact-ness.  (Alas, *later* 
guffaws are largely unintended.)  Ford growls and grumbles his 
way through an inconsistently written character; Pfeiffer, how-
ever, is absolutely excellent at depicting anxious apprehension.  
Of course, so are the hundreds of *teen* stars who have endured 
similar, if slash-ier circumstances.  Stick it out, friends, and 
some freaky fun erupts around the 70-minute mark.  She gets pos-
sessed, he reveals some secrets, and then they both begin fight-
ing, which culminates with Ford impersonating the world's oldest-
looking puppy dog.  (Feel free to laugh, loudly.)  At this point, 
the actors begin brazenly dipping their toes into the wellspring 
of awful.  (Love that overacting, Mr. F!)  And then, and not too 
long thereafter, Zemeckis shoots the moon and sends *everything* 
soaring right over the top.  Odious turns audacious as the film's 
first, honestly unexpected left turn occurs.  As well as one gen-
uine Great Movie Scene, involving Pfeiffer and a bathtub.  (Memo 
to those easily frightened:  I hope you have a shower at home!)  
Plus one or two other exceptionally well-executed (suspense) se-
quences, complete with composer Alan Silvestri quoting Bernard 
Herrman.  Oh, to have seen this one with a rowdy audience.  I'll 
wager its Talk Back Factor (TBF) is as high as *any* midnight 
ROCKY HORROR picture show.  (Rated "R"/127 min.)

Grade: C-

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

MOVIE HELL: Indiana Jones and the Bathtub of Doom

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros