WHAT LIES BENEATH
Review by Gordon Justesen
Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diana Scarwid, Joe Morton, James Remar, Wendy
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1 Surround Sound, Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Features: Director Commentary, Featurette, Theatrical Trailer
Length: 130 Minutes
Release Date: January 30, 2001
year was a big year for director Robert Zemeckis. He had two films released in
2000, and both films ended being two of the yearís biggest box office hits.
The movies were the survivor adventure Cast Away and the suspense
thriller What Lies Beneath. The production for Cast Away called
for a year-long break so that actor Tom Hanks could successfully slender himself
to make his character more believable. During this break from shooting that
film, Zemeckis didnít hesitate to shoot this movie. The director pulled off a
similar task that Barry Levinson did a few years back, when he successfully
filmed Wag the Dog in between filming his hard to make sci-fi thriller Sphere.
is a very creepy, somewhat effective thriller that works primarily on the
strength of the actors involved. How often do you get to see such high talent as
Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer appear in a contemporary horror film? Not
very often. Ford himself said in numerous interviews that he doesnít primarily
enjoy horror movies, but he read this script, and was thoroughly impressed. As
for Michelle Pfeiffer, this film may have successfully put her back on
Hollywoodís A list after a long string of disappointments, such as A
Thousand Acres and The Deep End of the Ocean. Both actors deliver
their strongest best in this movie, which if lesser actors were involved the
film may have gone sour.
and Pfeiffer play Norman and Claire Spencer, a happily married couple who have
just recently renovated an old lake house, once the residence of Normanís
family. Norman is a professor of science, and Claire is a housewife. After they
send their daughter off to college, the couple seem to have embarked on some
quality, free-of-distraction living. At least thatís what Claire thinks. Soon
enough, when she frequently encounters elements of being severely haunted in the
house while Norman is away at work. All around her, numerous objects appear to
fall and break, the bathtub seems to have a mind of its own, and most off all,
Claire begins to suspect that there has been some foul play in her arguing
neighbors home. Once she confronts Norman about her suspicions, he immediately
advises her to see a psychiatrist (Joe Morton), but it doesnít help a bit.
Then one day, Claire comes across another picture frame that has fallen and
broken, only it contains evidence that Norman was more than an acquaintance with
a female student, named Madison Elizabeth Frank, who went missing more than a
year ago and was possibly murdered. Claire immediately declares that she is very
much deceased, because she thinks it is her ghost that is haunting the house.
it seems as if Iíve spoiled much of the movie, believe me, I havenít spoiled
enough. The last forty-five minutes of What
present some very surprising twists and turns. The directing of Robert Zemeckis
is a triumph. He mostly creates suspense by using utter silence in his scenes.
He is a pro at working the camera, and there are some very startling moments
that are startling because of how Zemeckis has staged the scenes and executed
them. Itís a film that I think even Brian De Palma would be proud of. As I
mentioned before, Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer are quite superb in their
roles. Ford, having recently come off back-to-back disappointments with Six
Days, Seven Nights and
the dubiously awful Random Hearts,
returns to form in this film, while Pfeiffer delivers one of her best
performances ever. I bought her as a truly frightened woman whoís determined
to get to the bottom of what is causing the house she lives in to be haunted.
not to say that What Lies Beneath
is entirely original. Weíve seen countless haunted house tales in such films
as The Amityville Horror
and The Haunting,
but is a very well produced movie, with a skillful director behind the camera,
and some knockout scenery that makes a perfect horror movie setting. It
doesnít rank with the greatness of Zemeckisí other films, like Forrest Gump, Contact,
and Back to the Future,
but itís good entertainment nonetheless. This is one for a good late night
has long been one of the best DVD distributors, with their dedication to
perfected transfers and extras. The video job on What
was not as impressive as I anticipated. In this anamorphically enhanced
presentation, there seem to be lots of grain popping up here and there, most
notably even in very dark shots, which I was surprised to discover. On the other
hand, when there wasnít grain, the picture was as sharp as sharp can get.
Dreamworks doesnít falter a single bit in the audio
department. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix offers nice use of you surround sound
system, with spooky sounds coming out all around, which seem to come through on
every speaker, enhancing the frightfully enjoyment of the movie. Also featured
is a DTS track, which Iím sure is even more of a scary blast.
If the video department was a letdown, is not as disappointing as the level of extras on this disc. There are only three primary features, which include a commentary by Robert Zemeckis, an HBO First Look special about the making of the movie, and a theatrical trailer. For a studio like Dreamworks, one would simply expect more extras on their releases, especially this one, which was one of the biggest hits to date.
What Lies Beneath
is a mostly-professionally made suspense thriller, with some big talent involved
that helps it to make it more entertaining than your-run-of-the-mill horror
movie. It offers plentiful scares, and some frightfully nice twists to the mix.
You are likely to be more than surprised by the climax of the movie, too!