Film Reviews

WHAT LIES BENEATH (Bobby)

By • Jul 21st, 2000 •

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After sitting through this cliché-ridden mess of a thriller-suspense-horror flick, the gleefully ghoulish spirit of Alfred Hitchcock can rest assured, his reputation as Master of the Macabre remains intact. You’ve seen it before– and better.* Much. It’s an ecological waste–of talent and money, with the end result, to quoth the Bard, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

What lies beneath this horror? You’ll see no-see-ums …things that go bump in the night and doors that open and close by themselves …a beautiful damsel-in-distress stalked by a ghastly ghostly apparition–or maybe it’s an aberration and she’s going mad …slashings in the bathroom …a maybe-murder seen through a neighbor’s rear window …enough red herrings to fill up SeaWorld …and all set in a haunted house that’s an upscale version of the Bates Motel.

Homage to Hitchcock is blatantly evident throughout, with obvious references to Rear Window, Vertigo and Psycho –especially the latter, with music by Alan Silvestri that’s glaringly lifted from Bernard Herrmann’s unforgettable score. To add to this déjá vu, you’ll recognize, among others, vestiges of Ghost Story, and Gaslight , coupled with the bloody bathroom scenes from Diabolique, and Fatal Attraction .

Sadly, with all the state-of-the-art resources available to the production, hardly any of it works. You’ll seldom be scared–given the reaction of the audience I saw it with. (Even at the finale, with a scene straight out of Carrie, they laughed.) [editor’s note: I saw it at the same theater, the same night, at the screening following Bobby’s, and the audience screamed a number of times. Wonder what accounted for the differing reactions?]

But most surreal of all is why Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, two of Hollywood’s biggest names, would pick this lemon of a supernatural tale to star in.

Pfeiffer is beautiful to look at as she runs the gamut from angst to abject terror, while Harrison, poking around as if he’d just rolled out of bed after a bad night’s sleep, acts like he looks–and it ain’t good. He’s seen better days. But simply stated, the fault, dear Brutus, lies not with the stars but with the script (by actor-turned-writer Clark Gregg). It’s a fund of confusion and perplexity that will leave most audiences in a similar state. They’re not given much to work with; what you get is a blend of bland posturing and pseudo-scary plot more fitting for a grade-C William Castle oldie than this high-priced spread. So save your money and rent a video (of the original Psycho).

Scene from J. Arthur Frank's Dead of Night

One last word of caution: We should have been forewarned. NEVER name anyone in a horror movie Norman.

*If you’ve room for other haunted houses–or hauntings in general, from Cramer’s “Film Finder”– some highly recommended ones from cinema’s past that are worth the detour and all available on video: The Seventh Victim (1943); Dead of Night (1946-and my favorite); House on Haunted Hill (1958); The Haunting (1963); Kwaidan (1965-Japanese) [and your editor’s favorite]; Rosemary’s Baby (1968); Tales From the Crypt (1972); Don’t Look Now (1973); The Exorcist (1973); The Omen (1976); The Tenant (1976); Carrie (1976); The Changeling (1979); The Shining (1980); Poltergeist (1982) –and of course, anything by Hitchcock, whatever the genre.

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