Video Views

“What Lies Beneath.” Rated: PG-13. I give it a 31/2 on a scale of 5.

First, I want to commend the makers of “What Lies Beneath” for their efforts in returning to the old Hitchcock-style thriller, where blood and gore are less important than mood and suspense.

Robert Zemeckis of “Forrest Gump” fame directs this story of love, hate and deep, dark secrets.

Leading man Harrison Ford is cast against his usual type in this Dreamworks film written by Gregg Clark. Not that Ford hasn’t played grumpy, sexy scientists before, but I can’t recall that he has ever been so ultimately evil as in this role as Norman Spencer, a workaholic genetic engineer.

Michelle Pfeiffer plays his lovely, but deeply troubled, wife Claire. She has just taken her only daughter away to college. But empty-nest syndrome can hardly explain all the weird goings-on in the Spencer dream house on the shores of a lovely Vermont lake.

While Norman busily goes about his professorial business, Claire is often left alone. She begins to experience doors that open on their own, a self-filling bathtub, mists floating from room to room and, eventually, an apparition with a strong desire to communicate.

Add to this drama a strange couple next door that Claire observes fighting violently, then watches the husband carry a body-shaped package out to his car, place it in his trunk and drive away. What’s a girl to think? When she confronts the husband, a colleague of Norman, at a college function, his wife shows up. Norman is not pleased.

This movie has some problems. It is about as predictable as a thriller can be. Nearly all the techniques used can be traced to some recent successful film. And they don’t all work, especially when put together in a cinematic collage.

Oddly, however, “What Lies Beneath” is still scary. The mood is tense, even though some of the heroine’s moves are stupid enough to qualify her for a role in a “Friday the Thirteenth” episode. Why, for example, would a person back down a set of stairs knowing that a killer may be waiting at the bottom?

I kept waiting for the big plot twist that would project this movie into the same category as “The Sixth Sense,” but it never came.

Nevertheless, I was entertained by this film. It wasn’t particularly gory, and it contained no nudity or strong sexuality. The language stayed well below that allowed by today’s PG-13 standards.

Ford and Pfeiffer are more than up to the task of covering a less-than-stellar storyline of just over two hours. I have to think Hitchcock would agree with me.

Bob Wade is a local video enthusiast. The videos he reviews come courtesy of Radio Shack/Quick Flick, 110 N. Main, Hillsboro.

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