Robert Zemeckis’ first foray into thriller territory, What Lies Beneath follows Michelle Pfeiffer’s Claire Spencer as she becomes increasingly convinced that her home is haunted by a ghost – much to the consternation of her patient, disbelieving husband (Harrison Ford’s Norman). It’s a solid premise that’s employed to surprisingly middling effect by Zemeckis, as the movie, which runs a ludicrously overlong 130 minutes, progresses at an excessively deliberate pace that prevents the viewer from connecting to the material on an ongoing basis. The lackadaisical vibe, in a far more problematic development, ensures that What Lies Beneath suffers from in an overwhelming lack of tension or momentum, which is certainly an insurmountable obstacle given that Zemeckis and scripter Clark Gregg are striving for feel and tone of an atmospheric, Hitchcockian chiller. And while the movie remains fairly uninvolving for much of its running time, What Lies Beneath, at the very least, boasts a number of positive attributes that prevent it from becoming an all-out disaster – with, especially, Zemeckis’ predictably strong visuals going a long way towards elevating one’s interest on a regular basis. It’s worth noting, too, that the film improves substantially as it progresses into its comparatively enthralling third act, as Zemeckis transforms What Lies Beneath into a full-on horror movie complete with suspenseful interludes and quasi-effective jump scares. (There is, in terms of the former, a very engrossing bit of business involving a bathtub.) It’s ultimately impossible not to label What Lies Beneath as a missed opportunity that could and should have been much, much better, with Zemeckis’ refusal (or inability) to deliver a tight, taut narrative playing a key role in confirming the movie’s relative downfall.
**1/2 out of ****