Picks and Pans Review: What Lies Beneath

updated 07/31/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/31/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer

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Pfeiffer, a cellist turned homemaker, faces an empty nest. She has just sent her only daughter off to college. Her husband (Ford), a genetic researcher, is preoccupied with an important paper. That leaves Pfeiffer alone in her lakefront Vermont home. It's a gorgeous place, wood-shingled, with much of the interior painted a periwinkle blue and fitted out with what look like fixtures from Restoration Hardware. There's even a garden, where Pfeiffer grows roses. As the whispering leaves and buzzing cicadas provide accompaniment to her solitude, a sense of dread seeps in. Is she possessed by Martha Stewart?

Then another, more dangerous spirit arrives. A blonde who looks like Pfeiffer, this ghost mists up the bathroom, knocks over photos and is always gently tugging open the front door. Pfeiffer, not sure whether she needs a Ouija board or Prozac, begins to unravel. And how beautifully she falls apart. Like her cello, Pfeiffer is an exquisitely built, gleamingly polished instrument that pours forth a low, throbbing melody. She gives one of the summer's best performances. Ford, the least neurotic of leading men, is a comfortable match for her. As usual, his rumpled charm trails off imperceptibly into rumpled surliness.

Elegantly shot and teased along by small, sly touches of humor, Beneath aspires to the kind of sophisticated psycho-horror associated with such sick-puppy maestros as Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski. Director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) appears ready to pull it off, but then the movie takes one twist too many and skitters off into slick formula. The eye of a corpse blinks open. The music shrieks. And Pfeiffer becomes as ditzy as a babysitter in a slasher movie. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: A cut above most ghost stories

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