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WHAT LIES BENEATH ($27) isn't exactly the film that the promos seemed to imply. I sat through the television commercials for WHAT LIES BENEATH more times than I can count and I really expected the movie to be an out and out supernatural thriller. My expectations aside, WHAT LIES BENEATH is still a thriller, but it is more of the Hitchcock-ian bent, than a shocking ghost story.

WHAT LIES BENEATH stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer as Dr. Norman Spencer and his wife Claire, who are easing their way into the empty nest syndrome with their daughter's departure for college. Like any good mother, Claire misses her daughter deeply, which only exacerbates the fact that she is still recovering from a high-speed car crash that occurred a year ago. Making matters worse is the fact that Norman is a workaholic research scientist, who leaves Claire home alone much of the time. With too much time on her hands, Claire begins to suspect that the heated arguments between their next-door neighbors have finally turned deadly. After some spooky occurrences in her own home, Claire tries to contact her dearly departed neighbor with an Ouija board. The results are not what Claire expected and she soon finds that she contacted the ghost of a woman, with whom her husband once had an affair. Does the specter want to destroy Claire, her marriage or are the motives of the restless spirit something completely unexpected. WHAT LIES BENEATH benefits from the technical wizardry of director Robert Zemeckis, who certainly knows how to jolt an audience. Unfortunately, the movie's flaws lie in its screenplay, which has gaps in logic, as well as telegraphing it's ending well in advance, even though the character's motivations that prompt that particular ending don't make much sense. The cast of WHAT LIES BENEATH also features (the underutilized and under appreciated) Diana Scarwid, Joe Morton, James Remar, Miranda Otto, Katharine Towne, Victoria Bidewell, Eliott Goretsky and Ray Baker.

Dreamworks Home Entertainment has made WHAT LIES BENEATH available on DVD in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the presentation has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Image quality is very pleasing; with a crisp looking picture that displays a fine level of detail. Colors are fairly bold looking, while the flesh tones remain very natural. None of the stronger hues show any signs of chroma noise or bleeding. Blacks are solid, plus shadow detail excellent during the film's numerous dark scenes. Additionally, the picture boasts very smooth contrast and highly stable whites. Digital compression artifacts are well hidden on this cleanly authored, dual layer DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channels soundtrack is nicely mixed and offers full-bodied sonic experience. Channel separation is very good, which creates an open sounding forward soundstage. Dialogue is clean, crisp and maintains full intelligibility, even when sound effects and the music become boisterous. Strangely enough, surround usage seems limited to the potent musical score without any sound effects coming from the rear channels. The bass channel is pretty deep, enhancing the music and adding the requisite punch to the sound effects. Alan Silvestri's insistent score is reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s work when he was in the full Hitchcock mode. Silvestri’s music is beautifully recorded and exquisitely integrated into mix to maintain a very fully level of sonic fidelity. WHAT LIES BENEATH also includes a DTS 5.1 channels soundtrack that is very similar to the Dolby Digital track. In DTS, WHAT LIES BENEATH is a bit more life like, with cleaner sound effects, a slightly fuller bottom end and more detailed music. While DTS does have a slight edge, the Dolby Digital track is no slouch, so don't feel as though you are missing anything if you system only supports the standard bearer. An English Dolby surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Topping the list is a running audio commentary with director Robert Zemeckis, plus producers Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke. The commentary is somewhat self-congratulatory, but it does go into detail about the movie’s cinematic tricks are accomplished. Also included on the DVD is Constructing The Perfect Thriller a featurette that looks back on the career of director Robert Zemeckis as well as taking one behind-the-scenes on the set of WHAT LIES BENEATH. A theatrical trailer, production notes and cast biographies/filmographies fill out the extras.

WHAT LIES BENEATH is a fairly entertaining thriller that is worth checking out for it's technical wizardry and solid performances. The Dreamworks DVD looks and sounds great, so pick up the disc instead of waiting for pay-per-view.


What Lies Beneath



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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