With Sixth Sense raising the stakes in terms of suspense in mainstream films, the gauntlet has been thrown down to Hollywood to be clever in freaking out audiences. Here, director Robert Zemeckis (Forest Gump) snatches the gauntlet with both hands and, with What Lies Beneath, tries to reinvent Hitchcock.With their daughter fleeing the family nest for college, Dr Norman Spencer and his wife Clare (Ford and Pfeiffer) suddenly have the house to themselves. While the Doctor works long hours, his wife starts to experience some weird goings-on in the house and with the dubious behavior of the next door neighbours begins doubting her own sanity. Yet something far more sinister is transpiring as events of the past begin to haunt the household.
Initially, the film’s atmosphere is eerie with disturbingly little happening in the first hour. But the tension soon evaporates as the film spirals into a Fatal Attraction type bloody finale with cliché use of the old playing dead routine climax. The exaggerated Hitchcock-esque score makes you jump though, as it literally blasts you out of your seat.
Reinventing Hitchcock? Well there’s a bath scene instead of a shower scene, so marks for that. But there’s no subtle psychological intrigue here; the directing is sharp and inventive and there are no qualms to be had with the performances.But everything seems too manicured and polished, with Ford and Pfieffer’s presence only reinforcing the mainstream gloss. It ain’t no Sixth Sense, anyway. David Michael