Directed by Robert Zemeckis [Other horror films: Two-Fisted Tales (1992, segment ‘Yellow’), Death Becomes Her (1992)]
“A horror movie starring Harrison Ford,” I can hear people crying out in confusion. Truth be told, while this movie has a lot of nostalgic feelings for me, I feel that, by-and-large, it’s generally forgotten. I can certainly see why, given how milquetoast it tends to be, but even so, there are some solidly suspenseful scenes here.
What Lies Beneath has a strong sense of mystery, which is where I think the movie does best. There are some legitimately creepy and suspenseful scenes, but it’s the mystery which really pulled me in. There are a few mishaps with the story (such as the possession scene), and perhaps there were a few too many red herrings, but I generally enjoyed a lot of it.
Michelle Pfeiffer does really good with her role, and though I don’t care a lot for her character mid-film, I do think she shines really well at the end. Harrison Ford is an actor I’ve pretty much loved in everything, from Witness to the Indiana Jones’ films. Here, he does a great job too, and really brings with him some big name recognition to this movie. That might turn some horror fans off, but I enjoy Ford, and seeing him play a solid role is fun. Essentially, Ford and Pfeiffer are the only two really important characters, and mostly no one else does a whole lot for me, but both Diana Scarwid and Ray Baker do well in low-key ways.
The mystery is great, but one of my favorite scenes is pure suspense, being the bathtub sequence at the end. I obviously won’t spoil any of the details, but that scene, while it runs perhaps a little longer than might be necessary, is suspense through-and-through. Really gets your heart pumping, leading to a somewhat mixed (but overall decent) conclusion.
Downsides, though, include a few portions of the story, the unnecessary length, and the rather tepid feel of the film. I didn’t care for the more overtly supernatural portions of What Lies Beneath – I thought it’d have been better to leave things more open-ended, giving the film a sort of more mysterious feel. Also, at two hours and ten minutes, I don’t really think there’s story’s good enough to demand that kind of time. I loved the finale, but there were some things in the middle of the film they probably could have done without.
Lastly, being a mainstream horror film directed by Robert Zemeckis (of Back to the Future fame) and starring Harrison Ford alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, What Lies Beneath feels incredibly safe and rather tepid at points. It has some really strong suspense, but generally, this is just a safe horror film, PG-13 rating, and that likely wouldn’t do it for some horror fans.
What Lies Beneath isn’t some gorefest that devoted fans of the underground releases would gravitate towards, but if you’re cool with a somewhat safe, potentially supernatural, movie, then I think you could do worse. This might even attract more Ford fans than horror fans, but speaking primarily as a horror fan, while this is far from perfect, I do think it has enough to keep the movie fresh, and I think it’s generally an above-average film, though not by much.