Also reviewed: MEMENTO Recommended

From November 2000
Film Review

Film Review Hotline
4 Stars; Recommended

Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer talk in this issue

STARS: Harrison Ford
Michelle Pfeiffer, Diana Scarwid

DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright:
Twentieth Century Fox
RUNNING TIME: 2hrs 09mins
OPENING DATE (UK): October 20

Like a candle in the wind?
Could it be magic?

If you were afraid to go into the shower after Psycho, you may never wash again after seeing What Lies Beneath.

Predominantly set in the idyllic home of Dr Norman Spencer (Ford) and his wife Claire (Pfeiffer), this superior supernatural chiller from Robert Zemeckis shifts from ghost story to psychological suspense thriller, but it all the while stays one step ahead of the audience.

The ‘beneath’ of the title, superficially at least, refers to the lake next to their home. When Claire spies what she thinks is a body floating under the surface, she initially suspects her new, mysterious – and violent – neighbour of bumping off his wife. To compound her fears, she begins to experience paranormal behaviour in her own home, and this leads her to the point where she sees a ghostly vision of a woman whom she believes to be her murdered neighbour. The truth, however, is ultimately far more sinister.

Shot during the six-month break in the production of Zemeckis’ other current movie, Cast Away (while Tom Hanks was radically losing weight for the role), What Lies Beneath still has the feeling of a director in total control. Although it is admittedly indebted to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and, of course, Psycho, it still has enough freshness to send a chill down the spine. Containing one masterful set piece, which involves a semi-conscious Pfeiffer trying to save herself from drowning in the tub, the film shows the hallmarks of Zemeckis having taken pains to tread carefully all the while. He layers the film so that we – like Claire – are never quite sure of what we saw.

As for the performances, Pfeiffer gives her best turn in a long, long time, while Ford as the adulterous doctor is also credible despite playing against type and audience’s expectations. Although overlong at more than two hours for a film in this genre, both actors manage to shoulder the weight of what is, for the most part, a two-hander. It’s not perhaps as subtle as The Sixth Sense, but What Lies Beneath is still a masterful exercise in deceit that should have you fooled and frightened until the end.

James Mottram

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Also reviewed online this month:
5 Stars; Excellent
MEMENTO • released October 20


5 Stars; Excellent5 Stars; Excellent
This is Spinal Tapre-iss Oct 13

5 Stars; Excellent
Some Like it Hotre-iss Oct 20
In the Mood for Love • Oct 27

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Oct 13 • Girlfight
Oct 13 • House of Mirth
Oct 13 • Romeo Must Die
Oct 27 • I Could Read the Sky
Oct 27 • Rage