Ghost stories never go out of fashion and at the turn of the new millennium they were definitely back in fashion with several movies delivering stories with a spectral element. One of those movies was "What Lies Beneath" which with a cast which features Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford alongside director Robert Zemeckis sounds like it should be good. But "What Lies Beneath" proves that a popular director and stars do not make a movie and that a decent storyline is pivotal and that is what this movie is lacking. Not only is it lacking a decent storyline but the one delivered is at times so comically bad that you wonder whether "What Lies Beneath" would have been better off being a horror spoof than a horror thriller.
A year after a serious car crash and having given up her career as a musician Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer - One Fine Day) is struggling with empty nest syndrome as her only daughter has left for college and her husband, university research scientist Norman (Harrison Ford - Air Force One) is always at work. And Norman becomes very concerned for Claire when having heard the married couple next door argue and then the wife goes missing she starts experiencing strange things from visions, to noises and doors opening on their own leading her to believe the woman has been murdered and is haunting her. Having visited a shrink who encourages her to try and make contact Claire attempts to get to the bottom of why all these strange things are happening to her.
To put it simply "What Lies Beneath" is a movie of two halves with the first half being the better of the two. As you would expect the first half is all about establishing not only the characters but also the possible ghostly goings on and so we meet Claire Spencer who with her husband working and her daughter gone off to college is suffering empty nest syndrome. We watch as being home alone starts to get a little creepy as doors open of their own, pictures fall to the floor and with the woman next door going missing following an argument with her husband Claire's imagination goes into overdrive as she becomes convinced not only has the woman been killed but is haunting their home. Despite some heavy handed sign posting of important things such as the fact we learn that there is no mobile phone coverage on the bridge till half way things are reasonably creepy.
And in this first half director Robert Zemeckis has fun playing with classic thriller concepts as he serves up his take on "Rear Window" with Claire spying on the next door neighbours. It's reasonably effective and the best frights come during this first half as he employs the use of the unexpected to make you jump. Having said that a comical scene with a Ouija board feels more spoof than anything but you are semi convinced that Claire hasn't just got an over active imagination and something creepy is going on.
But then come the second half and to be frank the less said about this the better as it borders on the terrible. I will just say that pretty much all the work done in the first half unravels very quickly and instead we get a contrived plot which ends up riddled with holes. By the time "What Lies Beneath" is over you are grateful because of this poor second half.
In many ways it is because there is Robert Zemeckis behind the camera and Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford in front of it that "What Lies Beneath" is just about watch able, anyone else and it wouldn't be worth your time. But that doesn't mean that either Pfeiffer or Ford deliver great performances, with the exception of a scene which sees Pfeiffer giving a come hither look whilst her legs are akimbo their performances are forgettable. And as for the supporting performances from the likes of Joe Morton and James Remar, well the characters are nothing more than passing figures with no real importance.
What this all boils down to is that "What Lies Beneath" basically sucks, it sucks because whilst after a reasonable first half which does a fair job of establishing a ghost story it then becomes a lot of nonsense. I am sure that those who don't care about storyline will find the nonsense entertaining but for those who do will wonder what went wrong and more importantly why Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford agreed to star.