What lies beneath is fear. And a body in the lake.

The best thing that director Robert Zemeckis does in this tribute-to-Hitchcock is create a feeling of unease surrounding Michelle Pfeiffer. She plays an ex-concert cellist, Claire Spenser, wife of renowned genealogist, Norman (Harrison Ford).

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When her daughter goes to college, she's alone in the house. She doesn't practice her instrument any more. Something to do with a car crash.

She starts hearing voices. Doors open by themselves. A framed photograph of her husband at an award ceremony keeps falling off the table. Hot baths are mysteriously run, as if waiting for a body to slip into them.

She becomes obsessed with the new neighbours and spies on them with binoculars, convinced that a murder has been committed - a direct reference to Rear Window. Norman is worried. He jokes with his friends about living in a haunted house, except it's no joke to Claire. She sees things. Someone is trying to contact her from the other side, a woman like herself, with different coloured eyes.

Pfeiffer is very good at being nervous. At times, the film hangs on her every breath, creating doubts about the state of her mind. Zemeckis cradles this concept of a woman with not enough to do, letting imagination take root in the fertile earth of a supernatural field.

Tension slides up inside you. Pfeiffer's eyes reflect the horror that awaits. Zemeckis is intentionally slow. For a moment, the air melts in the heat of expectation.

And then it happens. The spell is broken. The plot lurches into action-thriller mode. Special effects are used with the subtlety of a blunt instrument. Mystery ruptures as terror gushes forth with an ugly cry.

Ford spends too much time nibbling Pfeiffer's ears. Norman has a hang up about his famous father and confesses guilt at working too hard. He's an attractive man, without being spontaneous. She, on the other hand, invites a dead girl's spirit into her life. She's scared and brave. An interesting combination.

Ford is himself. Pfeiffer concentrates on her breathing. Together, they feel separate. Apart, you hear her heartbeat.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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What Lies Beneath packshot
Michelle Pfeiffer is haunted by the ghost of a murdered student.
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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writer: Clark Gregg

Starring: Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diana Scarwid, Joe Morton, James Remar, Miranda Otto, Amber Valletta

Year: 2000

Runtime: 129 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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