After last year's The Sixth Sense it seemed that the ghost-horror movie had finally been exhausted. What a shock, then, when What Lies Beneath was released one year later! I was looking forward to it very much, having been a fan of ghost stories ever since I was very young, but also because of Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford's involvement, which I felt was something that simply couldn't be missed.
From the outset, What Lies Beneath is something of a rarity in the horror genre. Whereas most horror films will exploit anything (i.e nudity, gore, fake scares) in order to keep the viewer interested, What Lies Beneath's strength is in its subtleties. For simple viewing pleasure it works perfectly, but if you scrape below the surface (no pun intended) and look a little deeper you will see that What Lies Beneath is actually an exceptionally clever and inventive movie. Whereas the casual viewer may believe that there is in fact a ghost roaming the Spencer's house, it is interesting to note that many of the 'ghostly' occurrances could be passed off as either metaphors for events (i.e when the past literally comes back to bite Norman Spencer in the ass) or Claire's supressed memories attempting to surface. This is an aspect that gives what is a simple horror movie so much more depth and feeling.
The big let down for What Lies Beneath is its supposed 'twist ending'. Commercials for the movie that screened in the U.K gave away too much of the plot, and so anyone thoughtful enough to consider the given facts could figure out the twist before it even occurred. Therefore red herrings like the next-door neighbour were ineffective as the viewer knew what was to come.
Thankfully, this quibble doesn't affect What Lies Beneath's sheer entertainment value. Michelle Pfeiffer is occasionally a little too innocent and loveable in some of her movies, but in What Lies Beneath this works execptionally well as the viewer cares for her greatly simply because she is so normal. With Harrison Ford beside her, they both make what is an amazingly enjoyable movie (if only to see two of the biggest-named stars together in one screen!) There are some great moments, and a particularly suspensful scene in a bath tub will no doubt put anyone off taking a bath for quite some while (what is Hollywood's problem with wash areas? First Psycho forever makes people shower-phobic, and now baths in What Lies Beneath!) The ending goes a little into overkill, but a final battle in a sunken car is one that is not for the weak-hearted.
While the plot breaks little new ground, this is made up for in What Lies Beneath's subtleties and brilliant performances. Like The Sixth Sense last year, What Lies Beneath is a masterful picture with so many great talents behind it - and it's a movie that proves that the genre is still clinging on for dear life, no matter how hard the critics try to drown it.