Famously filmed during the hiatus between Fat Tom and Skinny Tom in ”Cast Away,” What Lies Beneath represents director Robert Zemeckis’ contribution to those beloved old ”Help! My suave husband may actually be a psychotic killer” melodramas. Pioneered by ”Gaslight” and ”Suspicion,” more recently addressed in ”Double Jeopardy,” the genre’s a nerve wracking Baedeker to subterranean female fears of entrapment, abandonment, and betrayal.
Zemeckis, fascinatingly, lets the subtext bubble up by taking his own sweet time: Scary movie junkies weaned on ”Scream” may be bored to tears watching professor’s wife Michelle Pfeiffer hesitatingly amass evidence that may or may not implicate husband Harrison Ford in the death of a comely student. There’s a looong red herring involving the neighbors, a ghost who may or may not be Casper friendly, and lots of opaque silences – this may be the quietest fright flick in years.
Well, sorry, kids, this is your parents’ horror movie: a troubling, perceptive relationship drama that just happens to feature poltergeists and blood spatters. Pfeiffer, in particular, is so spookily attuned to her character – a ”contented” empty nest mom slowly waking up to utter loneliness – that the film becomes as pointed about love’s loss as ”The Story of Us” was glib. In the end, ”What Lies Beneath” never quite breaks free of genre cliché, but Zemeckis has still pulled off a beguiling stunt: He’s remade ”A Doll’s House” as a Hitchcock movie.