Offbeat Blu-ray Review: What Lies Beneath

WLB - Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Release Date: October 05, 2021

Region: Region A

Length: 02:09:53

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English Dolby TrueHD Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 French Dolby Digital Audio

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

Ratio: 2.39:1

Bitrate: 35.90 Mbps

Notes: This is the film’s North American Blu-ray debut.

Warning: This article gives away important spoilers. Those who haven’t seen What Lies Beneath may wish to watch the film before reading any further. You might also want to avoid watching the trailer.

Robert Zemeckis

“I think suspense and cinema are really made for each other. I mean, there are certainly very suspenseful books and stage plays, but I don’t think anything can manipulate time and place and storytelling techniques the way a movie can. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at directing something really terrifying and mysterious.” Robert Zemeckis (Press Notes, 2000)

Zemeckis is correct. Suspense thrillers and horror films may very well be the most cinematic of all genres. This isn’t even debatable. It is painfully obvious to anyone who knows the first thing about the medium, so one has to wonder why critics are notoriously condescending towards films in these genres when they are the ones that have the most potential (even if the majority of them do tend to fall short of that potential). What Lies Beneath is the perfect example. It isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but the film was certainly better than its reputation in the media would suggest. Even so, there is one thing that the critics actually got right. Nearly every review — both positive and negative — felt the need to point out the debt Zemeckis owed to Alfred Hitchcock. Perhaps this was because the film’s press kit was flush with statements admitting this fact.

“In approaching this film, I told Rob to try to imagine what Alfred Hitchcock would have done if he’d lived in the digital age and had access to computer graphics. What might he have done? We had a ball experimenting with different types of effects, but I’m hoping that 90 percent of them are invisible… Audiences today are very hip and savvy to the conventions of the genre, so you have to go beyond them… You can’t do what the masters like Hitchcock were able to do because the audience would be 20 minutes ahead of the plot. That’s the greatest challenge because I think the enjoyment of movies like this comes from not knowing what to expect.” Robert Zemeckis (Press Notes, 2000)

Statements like these were almost certainly designed to get ahead of the inevitable comparisons that critics would make in their reviews of the film. Homages tend to be received so much better than simply “stealing” from a brilliant director’s arsenal. Just look at Brian De Palma! He built his career on Hitchcock homages. The difference here is that Zemeckis actually understands how Hitchcock built suspense, and De Palma often didn’t seem to have the first clue. He simply recognized that the director had a particular style and aped it… but it seems that we have digressed away from the topic at hand.

The critics were quick to mention the liberal use of Hitchcock tropes in What Lies Beneath. Take this short but scathing review that appeared on the Slant webzine:

“Robert Zemeckis shot What Lies Beneath while waiting for Tom Hanks to lose excess body fat between first and second round shoots of the remarkably understated Cast Away. Despite a suspenseful jolt or two, this cornball Hitchcock riff is anything but subtle. New England life always looks good in the movies (spacious homes near sparkling lakes; boats bopping on the horizon; strategically placed wharves), and Zemeckis so painstakingly evokes the normalcy of this hot-apple-pie milieu… Nothing wrong could ever happen here, especially if you’re a genetic engineer named Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford) with a wife as voluptuous as the lonely Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer). What better time then for the skeletons to come rattling out of their closets and scare Claire out of her happy domesticity than when her daughter goes off to college? Throw in a ridiculous red herring subplot and you have what amounts to a Gen X Rear Window. When Claire collapses on the floor, Zemeckis’s camera zooms toward her only to back peddle and drop into the ground by the time it gets to Claire’s face. What Lies Beneath has been seemingly pieced together from similar such overwrought tricks of the camera. To her credit, Pfeiffer keeps her cool despite the film’s punishing artificiality.” —Ed Gonzalez (Slant, May 02, 2001)

Rear Window is certainly one of the more obvious films that the film’s script borrows heavily from, and most of the critics were quick to mention this film in particular. However, there were certainly nods to other films as well. Take, for example, this more appreciative review by Bob Graham which makes connections between the film and Psycho:

“[Harrison] Ford’s summer blockbuster is called What Lies Beneath, and the title is a brilliant one, working on several levels. The deepest meaning will not be revealed until this thriller’s eerily satisfying climax… Is What Lies Beneath a supernatural thriller? Or is it all in the mind? They might even come to the same thing, which is one of the reasons this latest Zemeckis production keeps percolating in the memory long after all the Hitchcock-eyed referencing — and the screams — have died down… When Pfeiffer enters the bathroom of their comfortable lakeside house in Vermont, it’s fair to ask if the ghost she sees there is that of Alfred Hitchcock. Zemeckis certainly does. Anybody so inclined can find in this picture echoes of Rear Window, Vertigo and, most unavoidably, Psycho. It must be too tempting, I guess, for a director shooting a murder scene anywhere near a shower to make allusions to Psycho, and it’s no accident Ford is called Norman. But Zemeckis has something else up his sleeve…

What Lies Beneath goes Hitchcock one better by imagining what it would be like if the master had the advantage of digital technology. Excuse me. Hitchcock didn’t need digital technology. The really imaginative thing would have been to duck it, so to speak, altogether. Brian De Palma already has the role of Hitchcock grave robber sewn up. What really matters in Zemeckis’ thriller is that it works. His high-tech touches are just that, exquisite touching up. They do not call undue attention to themselves but enhance the chills. Zemeckis’ biggest digital effects here are the goosebumps… ” —Bob Graham (San Francisco Gate, July 21, 2000)

Surprisingly, Roger Ebert managed to stumble on a more interesting and fundamental connection to Alfred Hitchcock’s earlier American work in his two-star review of the film without ever taking the time to examine that connection.

What Lies Beneath opens with an hour or so of standard thriller scare tactics, done effectively, and then plops into a morass of absurdity. Lacking a smarter screenplay, it milks the genuine skills of its actors and director for more than it deserves, and then runs off the rails in an ending more laughable than scary. Along the way, yes, there are some good moments… There’s a bag of tricks that skillful horror directors use, and they’re employed here by Robert Zemeckis (Back To The Future, Forrest Gump), who has always wanted, he says, to make a suspense film — ‘perhaps the kind of film Hitchcock would have done in his day,’ according to his producer, Jack Rapke. Hitchcock would not, however, have done this film in his day or any other day, because Hitchcock would have insisted on rewrites to remove the supernatural and explain the action in terms of human psychology, however abnormal.

Zemeckis does quote Hitchcock; there’s a scene where Pfeiffer spies on a neighbor with binoculars and is shocked to see the neighbor spying back, and we are reminded of Rear Window. He also uses such dependable devices as harmless people who suddenly enter the frame and startle the heroine. And mirrors that suddenly reveal figures reflected in them. And shots where we are looking at a character in front of windows, and the camera slowly pans, causing us to expect a face to appear in the window. All of these devices are used with journeyman thoroughness in What Lies Beneath, but they are only devices, and we know it…” —Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, July 21, 2000)

When Ebert claims that “Hitchcock would not, however, have done this film in his day or any other day, because Hitchcock would have insisted on rewrites to remove the supernatural and explain the action in terms of human psychology, however abnormal,” he seems to be evoking early 1940s thrillers such as Rebecca and Suspicion. Actually, these are the films that seem to be closest to the heart of What Lies Beneath at the end of the day (even if the relationship is a bit less obvious).

In order to examine the film’s connection to those films more closely, let’s first take a look at the film’s story, thematic content, and the debt that it owes to classic literary traditions. Meg Hafdahl & Kelly Florence discussed this and the film’s subtextual content at some length in their book, “The Science of Women in Horror.”

“Vengeful ghosts have haunted readers and campfire storytellers for centuries. It is said in folklore that the dead return to avenge their wrongful or unjust deaths, haunt those who harmed them in life, or seek revenge for improper burials. Most often in these tales, the vengeful ghost is a woman who was wronged in life and will walk the Earth until she feels retribution… This story trope of a woman haunting others from beyond the grave has also been seen in literature such as Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ (1842), ‘Rebecca’ (1938) by Daphne du Maurier, and ‘Beloved’ (1987) by Toni Morrison. As author Tabitha King said, ‘The ghost is almost always a metaphor for the past.’ This metaphor is exactly what is haunting Norman and his wife in What Lies Beneath (2000). Claire suffers from empty nest syndrome when her daughter leaves for college. She is now alone, in a big house, a year after suffering injuries from a car accident. We are given hints about the accident and Claire’s backstory throughout the film, and it’s an eerie feeling to know that her memories have to be filled in by those we’re not sure we can trust. Although empty nest syndrome isn’t considered a clinical condition, its symptoms are real and include depression, sense of loss or purpose, stress, and anxiety.

Gaslighting is a term used to describe a type of abuse suffered by those who are being told what to believe or whose feelings are dismissed and invalidated. Claire, by not remembering the details of her husband’s affair and her accident, is being gaslighted by Norman. She’s made to feel silly for thinking there could be anything going on in her house or with her neighbors next door. Claire is worried that Mary is in an abusive relationship, and she even fears that Mary’s husband, Warren, has murdered, or will murder, his wife. According to Sigmund Freud, projecting onto others is a psychological defense mechanism that we use to cope with undesirable emotions. Claire, through her foil of the neighbor, saw herself reflected back. Mary was also married to a successful professor, spending most of her day alone in a big, empty house. Apart from projection, other common coping mechanisms include denial (refusing to admit to yourself that something is real), distortion (changing the reality of a situation to suit your needs), passive aggression (indirectly acting out your aggression in a subtle way), repression (covering up feelings or emotions instead of coming to terms with them), sublimation (converting negative feelings into positive actions), and dissociation (substantially but temporarily changing your personality to avoid feeling emotion). Claire and Norman seem to carry out each of these coping mechanisms throughout the film.

Giving up dreams, or a career, for marriage or motherhood is something that women often do in real life and is explored through film and literature. Claire, in What Lies Beneath, was a successful musician who gave up touring and fame to be a wife and mother. The Pew Research Center reports that 10 percent of highly educated mothers (those who earned a master’s degree or greater) stay home with children instead of continuing their careers. Some may choose to do this for financial reasons, while others do it for altruistic ones. Regardless of the reason, women often struggle with this decision and may feel guilt over the path they choose…

…[The film] … embodies many aspects of the female gothic. When Claire Spencer begins to sense a ghostly presence in her home, her husband, Dr. Norman Spencer, publicly makes fun of her. As a man of science, he is quick to point out any bit of emotion Claire displays, often attributing her panic or distress to past trauma. He continually ignores, berates, and dissuades her from believing what she has witnessed with her own eyes. This poisonous interplay explodes in violence, as Norman’s true self is revealed. Claire’s intuition has been correct all along: her home, her feminine sphere of influence, has been invaded. Her husband has murdered a woman, one of intellect and promise, all because he was afraid for his reputation. In the end, the audience is aware that Claire’s ‘hysteria,’ like that of so many female gothic protagonists before her, is justified emotion. These sociological complexities, most vitally a strain between the male and female, have been evident in horror since Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ [1818].” —Meg Hafdahl & Kelly Florence (The Science of Women in Horror, 2020)

It is this connection to “female gothic” sub-genre of literature that brings us back around to Rebecca and Suspicion (particularly Rebecca). Frances A. Kamm makes the argument that What Lies Beneath can be seen as a subversion of the genre that brought Alfred Hitchcock to the attention of the American mainstream.

“The so-called Female Gothic — a much-explored category which refers to women writers working in this mode, or Gothic stories which focus on female protagonists — can be defined by its relationship to the supernatural. With a convention which can be traced back to the novels of Ann Radcliffe, the Female Gothic usually denies the possibility of the supernatural and this trend is maintained for the majority of the Hollywood 1940s Gothic films; the latter of which What Lies Beneath (2000) overtly evokes. And yet What Lies Beneath signals as much a deviation from these traditions as it is a continuation: the film confirms that there is a ghost in Claire’s house, thereby inflecting the Female Gothic story with the supernatural. By incorporating ghosts into a mode of storytelling which has previously been defined by its rejection of such, What Lies Beneath becomes an intriguing case study in the history of the Female Gothic…

…It is this affirmation within an otherwise conventional Female Gothic text which challenges interpretation. What happens when the supernatural is combined with — and becomes an integral part of — a Female Gothic narrative? What impact does this have upon Claire as a Gothic heroine and representations of gender? … What Lies Beneath’s depiction of a ghost actually re-imagines and re-emphasizes the concerns at the center of this tradition. The film uses the supernatural to explore Claire’s relationship with the domestic space and the status of her marriage within it. The paranormal events thus function less as a commentary on life after death — as other supernatural tales might — and more as a ghostly reminder of the perils of real-life, living relationships. The fear and suspense evoked by Claire’s experience with a ghost acts as a misdirection away from a more terrifying truth: the reality of male violence against women. What Lies Beneath therefore establishes a dialectic relationship between the supernatural and Female Gothic traditions, blurring the boundaries between external threats and a subjective paranoia; the validation of the heroine’s experiences and a denial of her perception…

…As this plot synopsis illustrates, What Lies Beneath incorporates the Female Gothic tradition of a woman imperiled within the home who doubts her own experiences before her investigation reveals the source of fear is located in her romantic relationship: in this case within an established marriage. Hanson argues the film is part of the ‘neo-Gothic’: films from the 1990s onwards which ‘revive, revisit and rework elements of the female gothic film of the 1940s’ [Hanson, 2007, p. 173]. In particular, Hanson notes the affinity What Lies Beneath shares with Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940). In the story, the unnamed heroine marries Maxim de Winter and returns to live at his ancestral home Manderley. The new Mrs de Winter feels intimated by the memory of Maxim’s late first wife — the eponymous Rebecca — believing her husband to still be in love with his former spouse. The new mistress of the manor eventually discovers the opposite to be true: Maxim hated Rebecca and hid her body after she accidentally died (in a change from the novel). Rebecca’s body washes ashore, launching a police investigation although Maxim is absolved. The couple is free from Rebecca’s shadow but Manderley is burned down by faithful maid Mrs Danvers. Claire in What Lies Beneath and the new Mrs. De Winter are haunted — literally in the former, figuratively in the latter — by a past lover/wife of the male character who is also in some way involved in the woman’s death. It is this secret he keeps from his current wife and Gothic heroine. The association between water and death — both Madison and Rebecca are hidden in watery graves from which their bodies return — underlines the connection between the films further [Hanson, p. 195].

What Lies Beneath may owe its ‘greatest debt’ [Hanson, p. 195] to Rebecca but these similarities neglect to mention the major difference: the twenty-first century film gives the dead woman an on-screen embodiment and confirms the existence of her ghost which was only hinted towards within the mise-en-scène of its predecessor 60 years prior. Where Hitchcock implies a ‘presence from Rebecca’s absence’ (Tatar, 2004, p. 83), Zemeckis creates a spectacle of Madison’s spectral hauntings and gruesome appearance… The ‘symptoms’ [in Rebecca] are of the new Mrs. De Winter’s emotional excessiveness, exposing a misguided obsession with her former counterpart. Maxim’s love for Rebecca is as much ‘not there’ as the latter’s ghost… When the new Mrs de Winter later learns that Maxim hated Rebecca, ‘the heroine’s happiness is purchased at the price of the invalidation of her independent judgment’ (p. 31)… The confirmation of the supernatural in What Lies Beneath has the opposite effect… Madison’s appearance to viewers outside of Claire’s perception only emphasizes the point, lending further sympathy to Claire when she attempts to share her experience with Norman only to be told she is ‘overreacting’. What Lies Beneath and Rebecca may therefore tell similar stories, use comparable motifs and even echo each other in their depiction of the heroine imperiled within her home, but their respective treatment of the supernatural — as either explained or confirmed — is intimately related to the invalidation or validation of the heroine’s perception…

…Just as the line between the explained and the evoked supernatural could be said to have been deliberately blurred in Radcliffe’s work, so too does What Lies Beneath complicate its use of the supernatural which provides … other avenues for analysis. First Madison’s ghostly presence does not completely remove the Gothic ambiguity of events, or the significance of the invalidation/ validation of the heroine articulated by Waldman. When Claire confronts Norman after the events in the bathroom, she passionately exclaims: ‘He killed her and I’m not crazy!’ The intense scene above validates Claire — she is not ‘crazy’ — but she is not completely correct either; Claire accuses the wrong ‘he’ and is frightened by the ghost of the wrong ‘her’. This invalidation is made painfully clear when Claire confronts her male neighbor Warren only for Mary to immediately appear alive and well. This public humiliation is underlined with Warren’s question for Claire — ‘are you alright?’ — a concern echoed again by Claire’s therapist in the following scene; the terror of Claire’s experience with Madison in the bathroom, whilst not invalidated, is subverted back towards the realm of ‘false consciousness’. Claire’s incorrect assumptions for nearly half the film fulfil a function beyond being a MacGuffin-nod to Hitchcockian conventions; rather the ghost’s identity is still a spectral mystery…

…By aligning the spectator’s experience so closely with Claire’s, the film makes the viewer complicit in this mistake, particularly when one considers how evidence of the truth is present throughout the film. Near the beginning of What Lies Beneath Claire stands in the hallway and the audience can see through a window behind her a woman in a bathrobe run from a house. The sounds outside draw Claire’s attention and, as she watches her neighbors argue, a reverse shot frames Claire’s face in a medium close-up just as a hand reaches around her neck. Claire is shocked and then relieved as the camera re-positions to reveal Norman caressing her. Claire’s perception is not so much invalidated as misdirected: she looks outside for evidence of marital dangers when she should be looking behind her, and Norman’s introduction subtly alerts the viewer to this truth too. Norman is also constantly juxtaposed with Claire’s terror and fear: she interacts with Norman just after Madison’s appearance above and in an earlier scene when Madison first haunts the bathroom. When Claire is trying to retrieve her dog’s ball from the lake, Claire stares enthralled at the water’s surface and sees a barely visible face. Claire’s meditation is abruptly disrupted with a jump scare — for protagonist and viewer — of Norman’s phone call. This alignment of Norman with Claire’s unsettling experiences within the house further validate Claire’s fear as justified, even prophetic: like her experience of the supernatural, it is simply that Claire does not consciously understand or acknowledge the significance of her perception.

This predicament points to the second way the supernatural further complicates the border between validation and invalidation, and the complexities of the heroine’s experiences. The film still evokes the notion of a feminine ‘false consciousness’ which is aligned with the appearance of a ghost but, crucially, Claire is not invalidated like a Radcliffian heroine or the new Mrs. de Winter because of this. However, the supernatural is still framed within the subjective. What Lies Beneath is not just about the revelation that the ghost is Madison, or that Norman is responsible for her death, but it is also a ‘hesitation’ or ambiguity caused by the mysteries of Claire’s mind: Claire does actually know an integral piece of the investigation’s puzzle — Norman’s affair — but she has repressed this memory. When Claire is seemingly possessed by Madison, she passionately begins to undress Norman on the study desk. She suddenly sees an image of herself drenched in rain reflected in the hallway mirror — the same mirror already associated with supernatural events in the earlier haunting scene. This ethereal encounter appears to be entirely subjective: Norman raises his head to follow her gaze and sees only the normal surroundings reflected. And yet the supernatural is not explained in this way, or simply invalidated: Claire looks back to Norman and, as she cryptically suggests ‘his wife’ is suspicious, her face morphs into Madison’s and Norman throws her to floor in fright. This scene dramatizes Claire’s remembrance of Norman’s affair when, as she recovers from the possession, she immediately states: ‘You know. I know. I was there.’

For the first time in the narrative, Claire’s knowledge exceeds the viewer’s as she reveals this part of the mystery. The supernatural, in this instance, does not cloud her perception but brings this clarity. By channeling Madison, Claire embodies not just an uncanny trope — the double — but she emblematizes the uncanny process: as Freud argues, the uncanny is that ‘which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar’ [Freud, 1919, p. 340]; memories or traumas previously forgotten through repression… Claire’s repression of Norman’s affair allegorically speaks to the invisibility of male transgressions, however hard Claire otherwise works to bring such injustices to light: her willingness to believe Mary was murdered by her husband signals her awareness of the dangers that can exist within relationships, particularly from the male figure. Indeed, even her suspicions around Mary are not completely invalidated: Mary later confesses to Claire that she feels overwhelmed in her marriage and had considered leaving her husband.” —Frances A. Kamm (There’s a Ghost in My House: The Female Gothic and the Supernatural in ‘What Lies Beneath, Gender and Contemporary Horror In Film, 2019)

There is clearly more to this Hitchcock homage than most critics were willing to see upon the film’s release, and the film’s connection to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca even seems to have alluded them. The story is part of a rich literary and cinematic tradition that will reward viewers who are willing to give it a chance to be what it is rather than berating it for not being what they hoped to see. This reviewer has always said that an Alfred Hitchcock film is only as shallow as the individual watching it, and it seems as if that is also the case here. In any case, the public seems to have ignored the experts as they made the film a significant box office success. DreamWorks made $291.4 million on its initial $100 million investment, and it earned quite a bit more in rentals and home video revenue.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

Paramount protects the Blu-ray disc in a standard Blu-ray case that showcases an insert sleeve featuring artwork that is a cheap bastardization the film’s fairly iconic one sheet design. Their addition to the image is a faint photograph of Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer as their characters. One imagines that the marketing department felt that their image on the cover would inspire more sales, but the result is a less affecting image. There was no slipcover included with my Blu-ray (which I pre-ordered online from Amazon).

The disc’s static menu features a photograph of the film’s two primary characters as they spy on their neighbors. It is both attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 1080P transfer seems sourced from an older master, but it is luckily a fairly strong older master. I read somewhere that the image looks like an upscaled DVD, and this is certainly not the case. It is a major leap forward from the previous DVD editions of the film as we see an improvement in fine detail, depth, and clarity. Black levels could see improvement, but they could also look a lot worse under these circumstances.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The included 5.1 English Dolby TrueHD Audio transfer is a fairly dynamic mix that makes terrific use of Alan Silvestri’s effective score and the often subtle but always affecting sound design. All elements are well prioritized, and this includes the dialogue which remains clear throughout the entirety of the film.

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Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, and Jack Rapke

The packaging only lists Zemeckis as the principal participant in this commentary track, but Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke (both producers) are also along for the ride. Happily, they are all rather enthusiastic about the film as they cover a variety of topics that include casting choices, subject matter, story decisions, and etcetera. There isn’t much in the way of technical information (which is unfortunate considering that this is a Robert Zemeckis feature), but there is enough here to earn its place on the disc. Fans should certainly find it rewarding.

Creating the Perfect Thriller: Behind the scenes of ‘What Lies Beneath— (15:01)

Constructing a Thriller (as the packaging labels it) is a better than average HBO-First Look EPK featurette that packs quite a lot of information into the fifteen minute duration. We get an interesting overview of Zemeckis’s earlier career before diving into the reasons he wanted to make “What Lies Beneath.” Actually, two thirds of the duration is devoted to that career overview. The cast and crew interviews are made up of fairly standard promo reel statements that aren’t always particularly enlightening, but it manages to offer a bit more worthwhile information than similar featurettes. Having said this, the featurette gives away too many of the film’s surprises.

Theatrical Trailer — (02:27)

“The trailer of this movie thoroughly demolishes the surprises; if you’ve seen the trailer, you know what the movie is about, and all of the suspense of the first hour is superfluous for you, including major character revelations. Don’t directors get annoyed when they create suspense and the marketing sabotages their efforts? The modern studio approach to trailers is copied from those marketing people who stand in the aisles of supermarkets, offering you a bite of sausage on a toothpick. When you taste it, you know everything there is to be known about the sausage, except what it would be like to eat all of it. Same with the trailer for What Lies Beneath. I like the approach where you can smell the sausage but not taste it. You desire it just as much, but the actual experience is still ahead of you.” —Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, July 21, 2000)

It’s great to have the theatrical trailer included on the disc, but it is a fairly awful trailer that gives away all of the surprises that makes the film so diverting. Wait until after you’ve seen the film before watching the trailer.

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Final Words:

What Lies Beneath manages to earn its right to exist as something more than just another homage to Alfred Hitchcock. Robert Zemeckis seems to understand the fundamentals of suspense even if he occasionally goes overboard on “Hitchcockian” stylistic flourishes. It’s a film that offers more than meets the eye, and that is more than can be said of a great many of the more recent thrillers that claim to borrow from the director.

Paramount has finally given the film a Blu-ray release, and it is certainly a huge step up from the old DVD editions of the film.

Review by: Devon Powell

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Source Materials

Unknown (Press Notes, 2000)

Ed Gonzalez (Slant, May 02, 2001)

Bob Graham (San Francisco Gate, July 21, 2000)

Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, July 21, 2000)

Frances A. Kamm (There’s a Ghost in My House: The Female Gothic and the Supernatural in ‘What Lies Beneath,’ Gender and Contemporary Horror in Film, 2019)

Meg Hafdahl & Kelly Florence (The Science of Women in Horror, 2020)

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