Plot: What’s it about?
Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfieffer) has been seeing and hearing some strange things around her home, but her husband Norman (Harrison Ford) is convinced it is just in her mind. He tells her that she is just depressed because her daughter just went away to college, but assures her that all will be fine. This seems reasonable to Claire, because she does miss her daughter and after a serious car accident a year back, she has been on the shaken side. So she tries to move on, but the voices and visions continue, now even stronger than ever and she is more scared than ever as well. Once again she tells Norman about these things and he directs her toward a therapist, which she agrees to see and discuss her issues with. As she and the therapist talk about her fears and what she has been through, Claire admits she thinks their home could be haunted. The therapist thinks she should contact the spirits in the home, to find out why these things happen and perhaps find a solution to end them. But what will happen if what Claire discovers is more terrifying than what she now sees?
Now, I have to say I am bitter about this film for one reason, the theatrical trailer. We all know trailers usually contain some spoilers, but this one pretty much blows the whole flick. So, I was let down when I saw the film at first, as I knew what would happen in the end, but this negative feeling soon passed. In the end, What Lies Beneath is a throwback to old horror films, when they didn’t use buckets of blood or computer graphics to spook the viewers, instead they used suspense and atmosphere. And while some will contest that the story here has been done too many times, this time around it gets the right alignment of elements, including some masterful direction. I was a risk to let so much of What Lies Beneath to be silent or almost so, but in the end, that risk pays off in spades. This is how scary movies used to work, with well developed suspense and eerie atmosphere, but we don’t see many of these around town these days. This is a welcome breeze of fresh air in the thriller genre, a much needed one at that. I recommend this film and disc to all those interested, as both are well worth the time and investment.
I’ve never been a fan of Robert Zemeckis as a director, even though I have liked many of his films. I don’t think he is an untalented director by any means, but he seems to tackle flicks for money, more than art or challenge. Zemeckis seems focused on special effects and box office grosses, much like his cohort, Steven Spielberg. But Zemeckis has chosen some terrific projects and shown sparks, so I knew he would latch onto magic on of those times. Here, Zemeckis leaves the whiz bang world behind and uses some good old fashioned filmmaking, which results in his finest work as a director. This may be stand as his most popular work, but I think his direction here is excellent and serves as his best turn behind the camera. I hope Zemeckis sticks with films like this one, as he has won a new fan in this reviewer. Other films directed by Zemeckis include Cast Away, Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Used Cars, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Contact. The cast here includes Harrison Ford (Air Force One, Star Wars), Michelle Pfieffer (Dangerous Minds, The Story of Us), James Remar (Blowback, Hellraiser: Inferno), Joe Morton (The Pest, The Astronaut’s Wife), and Diana Scarwid (Inside Moves, Rumble Fish).
Video: How does it look?
What Lies Beneath is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I found this to be a dynamic visual presentation in all respects, but not quite enough to earn a perfect score. But the flaws were minor ones and all together, were only enough to knock the grade a small half point. This film uses a special color scope, but the hues still come off well and as intended, which is what counts. The whites and black set the standard here and they look superb, no hints of errors in these shades. No contrast issues either, detail seems solid and black levels are well defined at all times. As usual, Dreamworks supplies a great visual transfer and deserves a nod for their work, kudos to them for keeping up the good work.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc houses dual 5.1 surround tracks in Dolby Digital and DTS forms, which means whichever format you prefer, your covered with this release. Now this isn’t an action driven film and a lot of the movie is near silent, so don’t expect an overpowering mix here. But this is a dynamic audio track, as it keeps the silence when needed, but also creeps in at times and then pounces when it should as well. This is one of the most effective audio mixes I have ever heard, I give both tracks a perfect score in the end. This disc also houses a 2.0 surround track, as well as English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Please, by all means, do not watch any of the supplements before you’ve seen the flick, as you will not be happy if you do. That said, this is a nice selection of supplements, including a smooth audio commentary with director Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis supplies some good insight into the production, but seems a little dull at times as well. But still, this is a welcome track and makes a solid addition to this release. This one also houses production notes, talent files, the film’s theatrical trailer, and a brief behind the scenes featurette.