What Lies Beneath Review

Movie: What Lies Beneath
By: Kittatron
Date: May 3, 2011

Something lurking under the surface...

The wife of a university research scientist believes that her lakeside Vermont home is haunted by a ghost -- or that she's losing her mind.

Just an empty nester?

Claire Spencer (Pfeiffer) is a middle aged housewife living at a lakeside house with her husband Norman (Ford). Her Daughter, Caitlin (Towne), is just leaving for university when the film begins. Shortly after her daughter leaves, a semi grieved Claire begins to see and hear things in their old home. To begin with her husband Norman jokes that it is the ghost of his father, haunting them for making changes to the structure of the house he left them. The jokes fall flat to Claire, though, who is genuinely frightened by what she cannot tell is real or in her head. Alongside this, Claire develops an interest in their next door neighbors, whom she sees what she thinks is fighting.

bathtub sigh


The incidences escalate, and Claire finds herself seeing a psychiatrist who advises her to attempt speaking to the ghost in order to clarify what is real and what is in her head. He doesn’t mock her or suggest that it’s in her head, and I found that an interesting portrayal of someone in the mental health profession. However, after Claire and her best friend attempt a séance the incidences of haunting ramp up becoming more frequent and intense. Meanwhile, Claire finds the next door neighbor’s sobbing next to the fence, and when she attempts contact, the woman runs away. Shortly after this she disappears, and Claire is convinced that the woman’s husband has killed her. She confronts him after a particularly intense haunting experience, only to find the woman isn’t dead, but with him then and there. Norman is furious with her. He has no empathy for her suffering and chastises her for attempting to sabotage him. The situation for them quickly spirals into a very climactic ending, which I shall not spoil for those wishing to see the film.


What lies beneath is not just a story about psychology. It is very definitely a supernatural tale, however the writers hoped to confuse you about who it is that is dead and why they might be haunting poor Claire, who is very confused about it all and very frightened. She’s a very relatable character, with elements most people can feel close to. Human emotion, and strength of anger enough to hold one to the earth after death brought about by violence are themes present throughout the film.


“What Lies Beneath” is an interesting, engaging film... but. It calls itself a thriller, but I’d like to argue that point. Some of you might have seen the episode of The IT Crowd (original series) where it’s talked about why Roy hates Balloons. They give him a little fright, you see, and he doesn’t much like that. What lies beneath is a clever story punctuated by many “little frights”. Not exactly thrilling. At no point in the film did I find myself genuinely frightened, just a little surprised by the “scares” like suddenly hearing a balloon pop. The story was pretty easy to read, although certainly not as blatant as most American movie plots; it does allow some ambiguity for the majority of the movie, only really explaining itself in the last half hour or so. Overall I did enjoy the movie for what it was, a well constructed but overall fairly bland, safe thriller. Safe for showing your mother, 2.5 Stars.



What Lies Beneath


What Lies Beneath


Robert Zemeckis






Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford