What Lies Beneath
In this exciting supernatural thriller, Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer play a seemingly happily married couple who uncover a terrible secret…a secret so disturbing it threatens to destroy them.
When Claire Spencer begins seeing ghostly images and hearing mysterious voices in their home, her husband Norman suspects it’s just her imagination—until the images turn real. Now, together they must uncover the truth, confront their worst fears and find “what lies beneath”…with twisting and terrifying results.
A good old-fashioned thriller that wears its Alfred Hitchcock pedigree proudly on its sleeve, What Lies Beneath stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer as picture-perfect married couple Norman and Claire Spencer, who seem happy and content with a fabulous house, college-age daughter and still-active libidos. When said daughter heads off to college, Claire starts obsessing about her new neighbors, and becomes convinced that the moody husband killed the neurotic wife, and that the wife’s ghost has a desperately important message for her. Yes, it’s true, there is a ghost, and there is a message, but it has decidedly more personal—and life-threatening—implications for Claire and Norman. Suddenly, that car crash last year that Claire can barely remember and the circumstances surrounding it start falling into place, and Claire begins to realize Norman may have a secret.
Director Robert Zemeckis loads the first half of What Lies Beneath with humorous cheap thrills (the suddenly ringing phone, etc.) that poke fun at Claire’s dilemma while simultaneously making you tense beyond belief. Between each goofy thrill, though, is one true one that will make you jump out of your seat, including a bathtub that keeps filling itself. And all the while, Zemeckis subtly telegraphs the fissures in the Spencers’ marriage, slowly revealing that all is not well between these two. Yes, it’s a blatant Hitchcock homage to movies such as Rear Window and Suspicion, but it’s sleekly made, entertaining and engrossing. Ford does his stoic thing well (and looks great doing it), and Diana Scarwid provides a refreshingly lighthearted turn as Claire’s best pal, but it’s pretty much Pfeiffer’s movie all the way, and she carries the film on her not-so-fragile shoulders. And the third act is a suspense tour de force, complete with a breathtaking sequence featuring Pfeiffer and that menacing bathtub. In a time of obvious horror films, What Lies Beneath is an intelligent, fun thrill ride that will leave you breathless. —Mark Englehart
What would Hitchcock have done if he had had modern digital effects? The answer is almost certainly: something very like What Lies Beneath, Robert Zemeckis’ technically accomplished supernatural thriller that pays open homage to Suspicion, Rear Window and Psycho, to name but three. Michelle Pfeiffer delivers one of the finest, most nuanced performances of her career as a woman in an ideal relationship whose perfect life begins to unravel with terrifying consequences. Harrison Ford plays sympathetically against type as her husband who may or may not be telling her the truth. Although made in the middle of his filming Cast Away, while the director waited for Tom Hanks to shed some pounds, this is no quickie throwaway picture. Zemeckis loads this character-driven story with genuinely scary suspense, using subtle camera moves, mirrored reflections and red-herrings in a classic Hitchcockian manner—the difference here is that he has access to the most up-to-date digital effects and employs them with characteristic imagination, creating seemingly impossible camera angles that only enhance the tension. The Production Design is equally carefully considered, as even the idyllic household setting with its pristine bathroom is gradually transformed into an object of terror. Composer Alan Silvestri’s score winds up the drama several notches further with an appropriate Bernard Herrmann pastiche. —Mark Walker
Barnes and Noble
Whereas Alfred Hitchcock defined the shower as the focus of horror in the home, director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) makes the case for avoiding the bath in his suspense thriller What Lies Beneath. Taking a chilling and macabre dive into rustic Vermont, the story follows Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer), a lonely, high-strung housewife, whose struggles with inexplicable supernatural occurrences in her home eventually reveal frightening secrets both about her busy husband (Harrison Ford) and herself. In a movie with only occasional glimpses of predictability, thanks in part to Clark Greg’s twisty script, Zemeckis provides well-timed shocks amid deft references to Hitchcock classics, ranging from Psycho to Vertigo to Rear Window. Ford and Pfeiffer both deliver taut and credible performances in what is a refreshing return to pure cinematic suspense, proving that the hack-and-slash excesses of horror in the ‘90s need not be the norm. Joe Nigro