Director Robert Zemeckis took "What Lies Beneath" on in the middle of filming "Cast Away", a modern day Robinson Crusoe story starring Tom Hanks. The gap between its two distinct halves allowed Hanks time to lose weight and acquire the gaunt look of a real shipwreck survivor.
But "What Lies Beneath" is anything but a stop gap, it's a rousing tale of doubt, deceit, and murder that relies on a gleeful, Alfred-Hitchcock-style of storytelling. There is a very deliberate view of events that the audience has through the eyes of the lead actress, Michelle Pfeiffer. That she, like so many Hitchcock heroines, is blonde may be no more than coincidence.
Yet her fascination with the comings and goings of the house next door, and her view of these events through a pair of binoculars, cannot be written off as mere chance. This is a "Rear Window" moment, as she becomes convinced that the vaguely anti-social Warren Feur has murdered his wife. Things are not helped by the sense she gets that a ghost is stalking her house - is this the spirit of Mrs Feur, desperate to point her towards the truth?
The literal use of a ghost story to carry the plot forward is one significant departure from the Hitchcock format, unlike the film's basis in credible reality or the idea that what lies beneath the surface is more telling than an image consciously projected. In this regard Zemeckis has cast the film wisely, for both Pfeiffer and the dependable Harrison Ford bring a certain amount of baggage to it that helps mix things up further in a story that delights in causing confusion and doubt. If the ending is a little trite, well this is not high art, it's mass entertainment and to watch it among a packed house is part of the thrilling experience it delivers. Just hold on to your popcorn.
Ford talks about "fear.
Ford discusses his successful career.
Read a review of the "What Lies Beneath" DVD.