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Some movies are best watched “cold”: without knowing anything about the plot. What Lies Beneath is one of those movies, with twists and turns that are much more fun if you don’t have any idea what to expect. So if you’re reading this review, and haven’t seen any trailers for What Lies Beneath, I’ll tell you just a little bit to pique your interest, without giving anything away. Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford star as a happily married couple, him a respected researcher and her a devoted mother to her college-age daughter, who discover that all is not as peaceful as it seems in their neighborhood... and that some secrets just won’t stay secret.

What Lies Beneath
Movie
Veteran director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Contact, Forrest Gump, etc.) certainly knows his business. What Lies Beneath is an example of masterful pacing throughout the entire film. The plot is intriguing and engaging... and appears to be working toward a climax about an hour into the movie. Yet how can this go on, seeing as What Lies Beneath is slightly over two hours long? Well, just when you think that it’s got to be over, a new twist occurs and the suspense starts to build once more.

Zemeckis’ directing style is incredibly reminiscent of Hitchcock, and of Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window in particular. The influence is apparent in the overall handling of the film, in the ways that suspense is created, and even in the style of certain shots, which switch from what the character sees to the character’s face to show her reaction, and back again. This is most certainly a positive influence, as Zemeckis draws on the techniques of a master of the genre and combines them with his own style and ideas, as well as innovations in special effects, to create an entertaining film.

What Lies Beneath has a generous helping of genuinely scary moments – moments that are frightening in the purest sense, not simply gory or revolting. I won’t give any of them away, but I’ll simply observe that even on the second viewing of the film I found some of the tense moments almost unbearable to watch.

What Lies Beneath
Since Ford and Pfeiffer are well-known actors, some of your reaction to the film will likely depend on how much you like them. Personally, I always enjoy Ford’s performances, with What Lies Beneath no exception, and though I’m not a big fan of Pfeiffer, I felt that she did a good job in the film, if not an outstanding one.

Video
If you’re intrigued by the film, there’s no reason to wait on picking up a copy for your collection. While the image doesn’t quite have the sharpness that would make for a truly impressive image, it’s quite good overall. The film is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, with a generally clear and noise-free image.

Audio
What Lies Beneath features DTS sound, providing a clean audio track with clear dialogue and environmental effects. However, I don’t think that the DTS track has been used to its full potential. While the sound is good, there’s really not much “surround” feeling in the movie. For systems without DTS capability, there’s also the option of Dolby 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 sound.

What Lies Beneath
Extras
The special features section starts with a 15-minute documentary that focuses on director Robert Zemeckis’ filmmaking career. It’s an interesting feature, but unfortunately it barely touches on the making of What Lies Beneath itself. Other extras include an audio commentary from Zemeckis, production notes, cast and crew bios, and the trailer.

Overall
I’d recommend What Lies Beneath to anyone who appreciates a good, suspenseful movie. It’s well crafted and extremely well paced. And if this review is the first you’ve heard about the movie, all the better: go pick up a copy and watch it before anybody spoils the surprises for you.


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