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What lies beneath

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Movie propaganda

He was the perfect husband until his one mistake followed him home.

It had been a year since Doctor Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford) betrayed his beautiful wife Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer). But with Claire oblivious to the truth and the affair over, Norman's life and marriage seem perfect - so perfect that when Claire tells him of hearing mysterious voices and seeing a young woman's wraithlike image in their home, he dismisses her mounting terror as delusion. However, as Claire moves closer to the truth, it becomes clear that this apparition will not be dismissed, and has come back for Doctor Norman Spencer... and his beautiful wife.

Theatrical propaganda posters

What lies beneath image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film thriller supernatural lake murder marriage ghost

Persons of interest

  • Harrison Ford .... Dr Norman Spencer
  • Michelle Pfeiffer .... Claire Spencer
  • Diana Scarwid .... Jody
  • Joe Morton .... Dr Drayton
  • James Remar .... Warren Feur
  • Miranda Otto .... Mary Feur
  • Amber Valletta .... Madison Elizabeth Frank
  • Katharine Towne .... Caitlin Spencer
  • Victoria Bidewell .... Beatrice
  • Eliott Goretsky .... Teddy
  • Ray Baker .... Dr Stan Powell
  • Wendy Crewson .... Elena
  • Sloane Shelton .... Mrs Templeton
  • Tom Dahlgren .... Dean Templeton
  • Clark Gregg .... Storywriter
  • Sarah Kernochan .... Screenwriter
  • Clark Gregg .... Screenwriter
  • Robert Zemeckis .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Well, if you've read the Propaganda then you've just had the big surprise spoiled for you. Ain't it just amazing how PR people can think nothing of ripping the heart out of a piece of art just to make it more marketable? The surprise is that Norman had an affair. Why is it a surprise? Because Claire doesn't know! There's a whole sub-plot built on her point of view. Knowing, as you do now, that Norman was bonking one of his students gives whole new meaning to the young, female apparition who appears to Claire. (How many women are going to be in any given Hollywood film, anyway?)

But what about the actual film? Well, it's a spooky, scary, sometimes unbelievable thriller that will keep you entertained for a couple of hours, if not entirely satisfied. The spooky and scary bits you'll understand - if not, get a dictionary - but the unbelievable part is probably causing you some consternation. Why is it unbelievable? Well, you take a hard-core man of science living in a hard-core science world. Add a wife who's going insane and living in an increasingly suggestible world. What would it take for the film to move from an empirical reality to an imagined one? After spending so much time setting itself up as a real world film about a real world problem it suddenly slips the braces and heads off into the land of nightmare. (Do you like that metaphor and pun? Good, isn't it?)

This intergenericality is even worse than my neologising. There is an unspoken trust between the audience and the film which the filmmaker must at all times honour. No pulling hats out of rabbits, er... rabbits out of hats. No surprise witnesses. No cop outs ("It was all a dream!"). No changing horses in midstream.

[Quit with the animal metaphors already! - Director of Cinematic Intelligence]

Oh, all right. Suffice to say that it feels like a cheat to have the ghost wandering about the house in full view when they used to be just strange noises.

Harrison is getting on a bit (should be a senior citizen any time soon) even though he still works out and has too much tan (he's a university professor, for the goddess' sake - when does he get the time to tan?). It's about time to put the old guy out in the back paddock and use someone else who's a tad more believable as a geek. Michelle is way too pretty for a university professor's career wife, but she does look old and act unstable. That's good. There're a couple of really funny bits but other than that What lies beneath is a scary movie to pass the day.

At this point I can't think of anything witty to round out his review so I'm just going to end it here.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Commentary by Robert
  • Cast and crew biographies
  • Trailer
  • Featurette: Constructing the perfect thriller
  • Production notes

Media intelligence (VHS)

  • Trailer
  • Featurette: Constructing the perfect thriller

Security censorship classification

M (Medium level violence, low level coarse language)

Surveillance time

124 minutes (2:04 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

DVD rental: 3 October 2001
VHS rental: 3 October 2001

Cinema surveillance images

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