What Lies Beneath (Rental) (2000)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Rental Version Only
Available for Rent

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 124:31
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:18) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Zemeckis

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Harrison Ford
Michelle Pfeiffer
Diana Scarwid
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI Rental Music Alan Silvestri

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Although What Lies Beneath received something of a slamming from the critics, when I saw this one at the cinema it gave me more than a couple of scares, so when this DVD came up for review I was happy enough to revisit Robert Zemeckis' first real attempt at a thriller.

    Starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfieffer, I was pleased to see a horror movie where the cast did not consist exclusively of young beautiful things and a superhuman psycho taking them off one by one. In fact, I couldn't spot one cast member of "Dawson's Creek", a fact that I was quite happy about. Rather, the leads play Norman and Claire Spencer, who initially seem to be in possession of the perfect life: Norman is a respected professor of genetics. Claire happily tends to the garden of their wonderful house, and they have a beautiful daughter who has just left the family home to attend college. But underneath this veneer of happiness, there runs an undercurrent. Norman lives in the shadow of his father, and even though he holds a prestigious position, and is on the verge of a major discovery himself, people continue to congratulate him on his dead father's theorem; Claire was in a bad car accident a year ago, and still seems to bear the emotional scars, and now that her daughter to whom she was close has left home her empty nest resonates with silence, especially seeing as Norman is buried in his work. So when Claire starts to hear noises around the house, and starts believing that her neighbour has killed his wife, it is assumed that she's having trouble dealing with the changes in her life. But she has a pretty good case to suggest that her house is in fact being haunted by something or someone, and as she investigates these fears and beliefs (as well as her sanity), a tale unfolds, which may or may not have something to do with unrest in the supernatural world.

    The acting is universally excelent, without necessarily crossing the line to brilliant. Harrison Ford is his usual solid self but the center of this film is Michelle Pfeiffer who shows wonderful fragility beneath her delicate beauty and never crosses the line into overacting, a real danger in this genre. Miranda Otto (True Love and Chaos) has a small but vital role which she carries off well and Diana Scarwid (Silkwood) is excellent as Claire's "kooky but lovable" friend Jody.

    Director Robert Zemekis expertly builds tension throughout the first hour of the movie by using paranoia to create a creepy, isolated picture of a woman starting to lose her mind in the caverns of her empty mansion by a lake. Through the use of shimmering icy blue waters, mirrors and windows, Zemeckis suggests (as does the title) that there are things bubbling below the surface in this otherwise perfect domestic situation, and there is always the idea that there is something just around the corner generated by an almost constantly moving camera and superb shot composition. In the second hour, there is a distinct shift of pace toward that of a conventional thriller as these elements come to the fore, however the film is engaging enough to carry you through (albeit the long way) to an ending that I found nicely surprising. I suppose that before I saw this movie I knew very little about the plot. The trailer reveals quite a bit, and if you haven't seen this movie yet, you've probably got a better idea as to what is going to happen than I did when I first saw it which will probably lessen the impact of the plot shifts. Notwithstanding that, What Lies Beneath is a creditable addition to the supernatural thriller genre, and definitely worth a look.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. It another good quality effort from Fox, helped by the fact that a consistently high bit rate is acheived with the dual layer formatting and lack of extras and alternate soundtracks to suck away the available bandwidth.

    The transfer overall was very sharp and nicely detailed. There were a couple of scenes that were a little softer than the rest, although this was probably artistic intent rather than transfer defect, as sharpness was as I remembered it from the theatrical exhibition. Shadow detail was excellent: many scenes feature extensive shadow or low light, and there was plenty to see in these darker parts. I didn't spot any grain despite the lack of light, or low level noise.

    Most of the colours on display in this movie were quite cool, with whites, light blues and tans dominating. Where there were bright colours (such as for example in the garden of Norman and Claire's house) they were represented vividly and warmly. Much of the action takes place in low light or at night, so the brightness of the colour representation is restricted by that fact.

    I didn't spot any MPEG artefacts, but aliasing, although mild, was plentiful: at 5:56, 39:19 to 41:57, 49:05 to 49:57 and 51:05 to 52:38 on horizontal blinds, on Norman's shirt between 14:30 and 15:31 and then between 24:20 and 26:09, at 14:57 on a car grille, on a tweed jacket from 32:40 to 36:00, 59:50 on a PC vent, 86:10 on a boat, and finally at 88:06 on a building. I only noticed about three solitary film artefacts in total on what was an extremely clean print.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed midway through Chapter 12 at 54:18. It is placed mid-scene, and is therefore quite distracting.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio track on this DVD is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track: it is not overly impressive, although it doesn't have too many opportunities to shine.

    The dialogue was always reasonably easy to understand, with the exception of a number of lines that are whispered. Audio sync was not a concern.

    Alan Silvestri (Forrest Gump) has become something of a doyen among film composers, and with this orchestral score, he adds to his impressive resume. It beautifully enhanced the atmosphere of the movie (particularly the first half), although it occasionally telegraphed an impending scary event.

    The use of the surrounds was the real disappointment of this audio track. The score was well mixed, and enveloped me nicely when it was playing, but for the remainder of the sound, they were practically silent. There was one scene in particular where a character is in a house and it is raining heavily all around, but not a sound was to be heard from the surrounds. Directional effects, such as cars driving out of the side of the frame tended to end with the range of the front speakers.

    The subwoofer was reasonably active. There were many notes in the lower register from the score, and occasionally, a low rumble often employed in movies featuring the supernatural was nicely employed to increase tension levels. It was also employed for effects such as thunder, slamming doors, and the like.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    With any luck, we'll see a bit more than a bare bones version upon the release of the sell-through version of this DVD.


    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, but it is a basic effort. Static and silent, it mainly features the Fox logo.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Although it is unfair to compare this bare bones rental version to its Region 1 counterpart, I have listed the features of the Region 1 release below as some sort of indication of what we might get (eventualy):

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:     I can't see why the Region 4 sell-through version of this movie wouldn't receive all of the extras, however, although it saddens me every time I say it, we will most probably not get the dts soundtrack. The Region 1 reviews, though, tend to suggest that it doesn't really add much (and I can see why that would be said) so it really comes down to whether you want the full version now with NTSC formatting as opposed to waiting for the PAL sell-through version.


    What Lies Beneath was a nice change from what is usually offered in this genre, and it hearks back to the suspenseful classics of earlier days. A very good visual transfer is coupled with a fairly average 5.1 mix, and we'll just have to wait and see what extras are offered with the sell-through release.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Anthony Curulli (read my bio)
Friday, April 06, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D608
SpeakersFront: Yamaha NS10M, Rear: Wharfedale Diamond 7.1, Center: Wharfedale Sapphire, Sub: Aaron 120W

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Steve K

Comments (Add) NONE