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What Lies Beneath

"What Lies Beneath" on DVD

Zemeckis Does Hitchcock, Proudly

Harrison Ford may get top billing, but Robert Zemeckis' tribute to the great Alfred Hitchcock is really Michelle Pfeiffer's movie.

She's Claire Spencer, wife of Ford's famous scientist Norman, who's so busy working on his Nobel prize that he doesn't have a lot of time for her.

After taking her/their daughter off to college, stay-at-home Claire has a lot of time on her hands, and her active imagination starts working overtime. She becomes convinced her new next door neighbor has just killed his wife and hidden her body and, as if to prove it, she begins seeing and hearing things that make her think the poor dead woman next door is coming back to visit her.

Except it isn't that at all. No, it's something else entirely, and the secrets an increasingly panicked Claire begins to unravel reveal a whole Pandora's box of past events and what lies are beneath the veneer of their perfect marriage.

The longer What Lies Beneath plays out, the more the veneer is pulled back and the deeper the lies become, and the skill of Zemeckis pulls you along with Claire for a ripping psychological ride that, had he been around today, the late great master Hitchcock would undoubtedly have enjoyed immensely.

Zemeckis plays the audience like a violin, throwing up red herrings that make you jump and then feel stupid for having jumped - and just when you figure you've figured it all out and won't be a-jumping any more along comes a real scare and you jump all over again.

As with the best movies of this genre, "What Lies Beneath" starts slowly and builds slowly but steadily to its first climax, a bathroom scene that'll wrap you up so tightly you won't want to bathe alone again.

Missing from this film is Zemeckis' trademarked long opening shot, but that's okay. He still uses digital technology to wonderful advantage, creating shots that would have been well nigh impossible in the days when Hitchcock was shooting his films. Watch for Pfeiffer to close the outside door of the house right through the camera, for instance. It's high tech moviemaking at its best, using the technology to its maximum effect without beating you over the head with it.

Pfeiffer does an excellent job as a woman with deeper problems than she'd expected, whose life is unraveling right before her eyes. Ford plays, well, Ford and we suppose that's fine. The supporting cast, including Diana Scarwid, Joe Morton, and James Remar does a good job of either increasing or releasing the tension as the script may warrant.

And just when you think all is lost you're reminded of the supernatural aspects that played out earlier - but is it too little too late?

The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 compatible), as well as with Dolby Digital and DTS audio, and the quality of the picture and sound are right up to snuff. Extras include a running commentary from director Zemeckis himself, a very interesting "first look" behind the scenes featurette, production notes and cast/crew info and the usual trailer.

Some reviewers have argued that "What Lies Beneath" is a superficial attempt at doing a Hitchcock, but while the master of suspense might have done it differently were he around today, Zemeckis has done a fine job of paying homage to the late director while giving us some good and classy chills in an era where slashing and gashing is the order of the day.

What Lies Beneath, from Dreamworks Home Video
130 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1)16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS
Starring Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diana Scarwid
Produced by Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke
Written by Clark Gregg, Directed by Robert Zemeckis


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Updated May 13, 2006