What Lies Beneath

Domestic bliss. Claire and Norman (Pfeiffer and, yes, Ford) have a snuggle moment before the scary stuff starts happening.
dir Robert Zemeckis scr Clark Gregg
with Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford, Diana Scarwid, Joe Morton, James Remar, Miranda Otto, Ray Baker, Wendy Crewson, Amber Valletta, Micole Mercurio, Katharine Towne, Victoria Bidewell
Fox-DreamWorks 00/US 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
The obvious intention here was to create a film using Hitchcock-style themes and suspense updated for a new audience, and in many ways Zemeckis succeeds brilliantly, weaving a twisty, creepy story that has the ability to keep us balancing precariously on the edge of our seats. Then the movie cliches kick in.

Claire and Norman (Pfeiffer and Ford) are a deliriously happy couple facing empty nest syndrome, which for Claire is even more serious as Norman is always at the lab working on his important medical research. Alone in their rambling lakeside house, Claire starts seeing and hearing things, beginning with neighbours (Remar and Otto) whose constant arguments may have turned fatal. Then when a ghost appears, her worse suspicions are confirmed. Or are they? Maybe something else is actually going on here!

There are so many delicious layers to the story that it's impossible to outline them all here--father-son and mother-daughter dynamics, marital fragility, insinuating jealousy and most obviously the past coming back to get its revenge. Pfeiffer plays the role magnificently, assisted by Zemeckis' usual bag of cinematic tricks. As usual lately, Ford coasts through it, commanding the screen without doing anything much, really. And lots of terrific actors fill in the typical tiny-but-quirky supporting roles. The film looks absolutely fantastic, building the tension with clever camera work and very subtle effects, and until the final act it's the kind of suspense that does the Master proud--all unfounded suspicion and disbelief, hints of nefarious goings on, scary lurking things and red herrings on every side. But the script abandons this promise for a big cop-out finale that panders to the most obvious movie formulas imaginable, most notably one ending after another until we scream, "enough already!" Even so, this is better than nine out of ten thrillers out there, so I should just stop complaining.

[15--themes, suspense, violence, language] 16.Oct.00
US release 21.Jul.00; UK release 20.Oct.00

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his one mistake followed them homeLaurie T, Minneapolis: "Harrison Ford is the perfect husband who married a single mom (Pfeiffer) with her daughter. They move to this really neat fancy house that was his father's - and the daughter goes off to college, leaving Mom with empty nest syndrome - or is it? I really enjoyed this movie - don't want to give too much away. Ford plays a different type of character from his previous roles - not hero, not lover. I spent most of the movie gripping my boyfriend's hand, nearly broke his thumb, so had to switch to the arm. You keep expecting something to happen; you know someone is around the corner, but then it is the dog - or is it the wind? And has the neighbor murdered his wife, or is it a ghost? And who is telling the truth? Go see this if you want a good scare! We loved it - kept us on the edge of our seats."

Ellie S, California: "All the other reviews i have read of the film have been totally negative, so it's nice to read one that actually praises it. I am doing a project for school and I needed to find out more about the film, so thanks your site has really helped me! The camera work and special effects are really excellent, also I think Michelle Pfeiffer is perfectly cast as Claire, the way she manages to be vulnerable and plays her role really well. I really enjoyed the film, it keeps you on the dge of your seat all the way!! 9 out of 10 because i agree the ending is a bit of a bummer." (10.Jun.04)

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall