What Lies Beneath (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Theoretical question. What would a movie be like if you took one of those grade-b supernatural thrillers that they usually make for less than the cost of a typical pop-up toaster and remade it with big box office appeal - lavish effects, Robert Zemeckis directing, Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer starring, hundred millon dollar budget, cleaned up for a PG-13 rating.

Not so theoretical, really. This very movie would happen. Actually Zemeckis missed the boat. I would have worked in cameos from Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks as the charming gay couple next door, and maybe Julia Roberts as The Ghost of Christmas Past.

Oh, well, the shameless profiteering worked. The movie made a zillion dollars. Critics hated it. Normal people liked or even loved it.


I'm going to completely ruin this movie for you if you keep reading, since I don't abide by the code of "surprise ending omerta" that obsesses real critics.


I was whining aboiut how bad the ending to "Sister, Sister" was, and this movie has the same frigging ending. Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford are underwater, trapped in a car, and she's about to drown. Along comes the ghost, like Aquaman. Ghostie breaks the window, saves Pfeiffer, and takes Harrison to his well-deserved watery grave.

Oh, no ................................

Before that it was an OK thriller where Pfeiffer gradually identifies a dead person who has been communicating with her, and tries to determine why her new dead buddy is so talkative. The plot limps along predictably, but there are tons of those 'boo" moments that are always kind of fun, especially if you inhale, and it has plenty of Hitchcockian tribute moments and red herrings to mislead the characters and us, so I was at least paying attention for a while.

But I have to admit that I fast-forwarded through nearly 30 minutes of it, and that dumb-ass ending pretty much ruined it for me altogether, so I'm glad I wasn't one of the 6.1 billion people who paid theatrical prices to see it.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1, enhanced for 16x9, Dark film, but I suppose that is the film, not the DVD.

  • Full-length director commentary

  • behind-the-scenes featurette

I know that studio chiefs don't ask a lot of questions when directors make them a lot of money, and Zemeckis makes them pretty much more than anybody. He made this and Cast Away at the same time, and together they brought in more money than the entire economy of Canada, so nobody will ask this, but .....

I'd like to know exactly what they spent that hundred million dollars on. I mean there are no casts of thousands, no monumental effects, no battle scenes, no recreations of ancient Rome, no period costumes, no special sets, no wild animals, no trips to Europe. Just people hanging out in New England in regular 20th century buildings.

And they sure didn't spend the money on lighting.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: less than two stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 1.5/4,

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Mixed. 51% positive

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.8. This is generally equivalent to about three stars, so moviegoers liked it much more than the critics dis.
  • With their dollars ... it took in a mountain of money. $155 million domestic, another $120 million overseas, again showing the film's popularity. Finished in the top 10 both domestically and internationally. Made for $100 million, but still highly profitable.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. 100 million dollar budget masks a grade-b script. Except for "Touch of Evil", it may be the best grade-b picture ever made. Of course, I guess it can't techically qualify as a "b" with a $100 million budget. Anyway, it is a slicker-than-owlshit genre picture, but nothing more.

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