What Lies Beneath

As the neo-Freudian title suggests, this Robert Zemeckis thriller starts off as a psychological horror movie in which a central role is played by the viewer’s imaginationit’s in the sort of zone where Val Lewton’s low-budget horror films of the 40s excelled. A somewhat edgy Vermont housewife (Michelle Pfeiffer) married to an ambitious geneticist (Harrison Ford) begins to suspect foul play in their neighborhood, and that’s coupled with the possibility that their house may be haunted. While the guessing game continues the movie sustains a certain elegance, but as things start getting explained one swallows increasing amounts of guff, and when all the important facts are known the movie loses every ounce of integrityheaping contempt on characters and spectators alike while stretching out its climax to absurd lengths. Once upon a time, commercial filmmakers concluded movies in a hurry after shaky denouements in the hope that spectators wouldn’t notice; today, it seems they cynically assume that viewers are too hungry for mindless thrills to care whether dead characters spring back to life or live ones change their personalities according to the needs of the moment. With Diana Scarwid. Written by Sarah Kernochan and Clark Gregg. 126 min. (JR)

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