What Lies Beneath: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Not many directors have the prestigious name of “Spielberg”, “Hitchcock” or “Scorcese”, but one that has come a long way is Robert Zemeckis. Still a highly regarded director, I personally don’t think that he’s given near the credit that he deserves when it comes to the movies that he has made. For one, he directed the highly popular “Back to the Future” trilogy, one of the most anticipated trilogies on DVD. Recently, he’s also helmed “Forrest Gump”, “Contact” and “Cast Away”; all were huge moneymakers and Gump brought him an Oscar for Direction and another for Best Picture. So with all of these achievements, when will Robert Zemeckis finally get his credit? His movies have been diverse, with his latest two (What Lies Beneath and Cast Away) have been worlds apart (a movie he tackled with Contact). What Lies Beneath is not only a horror movie, it’s very real and the pace builds on such a slow and melancholy scale that you don’t realize how far into it you are…before you realize that you’re jumping out of your seat! Not many mainstream directors can scare us like that. We’ve become so used to Stephen King movies and “slasher” flicks that truly suspenseful movies like this seem to be a dying genre. Thankfully, Zemeckis and his casting of Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer do not disappoint.

Norman (Harrison Ford) and Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) seem like a normal couple. Living near a picturesque lake in Vermont, Norman is the head of a pharmaceutical research company and Claire maintains their home that they have inherited from Norman’s father (a home which they are in the process of remodeling). As the movie opens, their daughter is off to college, and now they have come to a turning point in their lives. A retired musician, Claire has given it all up and is extremely close with her daughter, but now is at a loss of what to do now that the homestead is empty. Some new neighbors next door provide a little excitement (in more ways than one), but it’s not long before the normal, simple life takes a turn for the worse. Claire starts to hear voices and see reflections in the bathtub. Norman dismisses it as stress, but Claire seeks advice from a professional nonetheless. As the symptoms become more and more prevalent, Claire is convinced that the house is haunted. There seem to be a number of clues that Claire follows and soon it becomes evident that this is no ordinary “ghost” that seems to be bothering Claire. Convinced that her new neighbors aren’t exactly what they seem to be, an incident occurs at a local party that leaves Claire’s sanity to question. She believes that the ghost that she’s seeing and hearing is her new next door neighbor. She believes that her next door neighbor has murdered his wife and now the house is haunted with her spirit. Of course, she’s proven wrong and is then taken back to square one.

Norman, trying to be as understanding as possible, tries to help his wife, but she’s becoming more and more obsessive about the spirit (wouldn’t you be)? What’s so uncanny about the spirit is that she looks exactly like Claire for the exception of the eyes…Claire’s are blue, the spirit’s are green. By a hint, Claire starts to figure out that the spirit may be a local girl who was reported missing a year earlier. By some clever investigating, she starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together and the result will blow you away. This being a suspense horror thriller, I decline to divulge any more of the plot, but I will say that this doesn’t follow any horror movie that I’ve seen. There are several scenes when people appear in one frame and be gone the next, add to it the audio and you’ve got several instances where you will literally jump out of your seat. Playing it low-key again, Harrison Ford again does a fine job, but it seems to be Pfeiffer’s movie. What I can say is that the formula is perfect, and though I felt it could have used a bit more action, the movie does play very well. I was impressed and let me say that everything that you’ve heard about this movie is probably right. If you want to be scared…truly scared, try this one on for size.

Video: How does it look?

Dreamworks delivers again with another outstanding transfer. Like New Line, the question with a Dreamworks movie seems to be whether it looks good or not, but how good does it look? The 2.35:1 image is enhanced for widescreen TV’s, and the colors, though muted look very vivid in some scenes. One scene that I noticed is the ending with a rose on top of the snow, the color balance is very impressive and it’s a tribute to not only the transfer, but the cinematography as well. The movie takes place in Vermont, as mentioned earlier, and I only recall seeing the sunlight in one scene (where Norman and Claire are sailing). Every other scene has the gray skies which takes it’s toll on the other colors, but the image is top notch. Edge enhancement is minimal and the black levels are right on par as well. There was something missing in a few scenes that makes me not want to give this a “5” for a perfect transfer. Though well-detailed, I wasn’t as impressed as I have been at some other Dreamworks title. Still, it’s a solid effort and I can’t see how anyone would be disappointed with the way this film looks on DVD.

Audio: How does it sound?

Though not mentioned in the original press release, this movie does indeed feature a DTS soundtrack in addition to a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I listened to both, but as per usual, I did prefer the DTS to the Dolby Digital. At certain points in the movie, usually when someone appears out of the blue, a radiating burst of sound will ring out that makes the impact of the scene all the scarier. Then again, at some points there is nothing but silence as we watch people walk around looking for what could be around the next corner. I was a bit confused as how to rate this. While active, the sound is excellent, right up there with some excellent movies that are known for the audio. Then again, there are points where there is no dialogue or background noise at all. So, while active, the sound is awesome. But it’s not active enough to merit a perfect rating. Am I wrong in my assesment…who knows? I can say this, though, you won’t be disappointed with the way this movie sounds.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The most notable feature is the feature-length commentary with Robert Zemeckis. Though no others are mentioned on the box or the menus, he has some company which is good as solo commentaries seem to be prone to having large gaps in between scenes. Zemeckis seems proud of the movie, as it did do well financially, but I would have liked a bit more technical information, as Zemeckis is a very technical director (take a look at what he did with Forrest Gump). Still, it’s a nice feature to have and it’s a commentary that I’ll probably listen to again. Also included is a featurette “Constructing the Perfect Thriller” which is interesting, though I felt it could have been longer. The theatrical trailer is included, but don’t watch it before the movie…it gives it all away (you’ve been warned). Round that out with cast BIOS and production notes (in addition to the DTS soundtrack) and this disc is worth picking up.

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