What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath Information

What Lies Beneath is a 2000 American supernatural horror film directed by Robert Zemeckis. It is the first film by ImageMovers. It stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer as a well-to-do couple who experience a strange haunting that uncovers secrets about their past.


Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer) is living in Vermont with her husband, renowned scientist Dr. Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford). A year previously, Claire had been involved in a serious car accident that leaves gaps in her memory. Combined with her daughter Caitlin's (Katharine Towne) departure for college, this leaves Claire profoundly affected.

The Spencers "? who have moved into the former home of Norman's father "? live next door to the Feurs, who have just moved in and frequently engage in loud sex sessions as well as loud arguments. Overhearing Mary Feur (Miranda Otto) sobbing one day, Claire becomes concerned. When she sees Mary's husband Warren (James Remar) seemingly dragging something that resembles a body bag in the middle of the night and putting it in the trunk of the car, she suspects that Mary has been murdered.

Claire decides to investigate. After nobody answers the door, she walks around the side of the house and discovers a woman's sandal with a dark stain on it. She steals the sandal as evidence. Back on the doorstep, she is surprised by Warren, whose surly behavior further arouses her suspicion. Claire begins spying on Warren with the help of her best friend Jody (Diana Scarwid). However, Claire soon witnesses strange occurrences when she is alone in the house "? pictures fall, doors open, and a shadowy reflection is seen in her bathwater. Claire becomes convinced that Mary is dead and haunting her.

Desperate for closure, and facing little sympathy from Norman, Claire invites Jody to join her for a séance in her bathroom, where she seems to be able to communicate with Mary's ghost. Claire produces the sandal for the ritual; after it starts, the dial on the Ouija board starts to move slowly from "M" to "F". However, the séance is cut short after being interrupted by Cooper, their Saint Bernard dog. Claire and Jody initially assume the séance has been a nonsensical exercise; however, after Jody leaves, Claire returns to the bathroom to find the tub filled. This time she sees the ghost in the mirror, Claire asks the ghost what it wants. It replies with a message on a clouded mirror: "YOU KNOW". Later, her computer also displays the letters "MEF" being typed over and over.

An anxious Claire goes to Norman's office to inform him of the séance. While traveling through Norman's campus, Claire encounters Warren and hysterically accuses him of killing his wife. But Warren responds with confusion before Mary"?very much alive"?joins him. When Mary speaks with Claire later, she explains that she had left Warren and that he had been packing her belongings when Claire saw him.

The Spencers assume that the ordeal is over, but later a picture breaks in Norman's study. Picking it up, Claire notices a newspaper clipping about a missing girl named Madison Elizabeth Frank (Amber Valletta). She learns that Madison attended the university where Norman was a lecturer. While visiting Madison's mother she steals a braid of Madison's hair. Reading from a book on the supernatural given to her by Jody, Claire uses the hair to perform a ritual that allows Madison to possess her. Norman comes home and Claire seduces him, but Claire morphs into Madison during the tryst, causing Norman to push her away. Claire's memory returns, and she remembers that she had caught Norman and Madison together the night of her car accident. Outraged by Norman's infidelity, Claire spends the night with Jody, who confirms to Claire her suspicion of Norman's affair after having seen him and Madison together in a small cafe in the town of Adamant; unseen by Norman, Jody keeps this information to herself until she confesses to Claire.

Norman eventually confesses: he had a brief relationship with Madison, but realized that he loved Claire too much to leave her, causing the unstable Madison to threaten to kill Claire. He states Madison came to the house and he finds her dead of an overdose. He pushed Madison's car (with Madison inside) into the lake.

Claire urges Norman to contact the authorities, and he agrees to do so. He speaks with the police on the phone, and then leaves to take a shower. Suspicious of her husband, Claire redials the phone and discovers that he had not really called the police. Norman suddenly grabs her from behind and sedates her. He drags her to the bathtub, which is still running, and places her in the rising water.

Norman then explains to Claire that Madison was planning on going to the college's dean about their affair, so he killed Madison and pushed her car and body into the lake. Norman then tells Claire he hopes her death will bring him closer to Caitlin who looks so much like her. Norman leans over Claire's paralyzed body to give her one final kiss. While doing so, he notices that she is wearing a pendant around her neck. When he picks up Claire's head to adjust it her face suddenly morphs into the corpse-like face of Madison. He is startled and jumps back, slipping on the wet floor and hitting his head on the sink; he is left bloodied and unconscious on the floor.

Claire, recovering from the sedative, looks over the edge of the bathtub to see that Norman has crawled away while she was struggling to drain the water. Having recovered from the sedative, she crawls out of the bathtub, eventually regaining enough strength to walk down the stairs. The phone has been disconnected, so she tries to drive somewhere that will have cell phone reception. Norman, only stunned at the bottom of the stairs, chases her and jumps into the back of the truck. A ghostlike figure appears in the road, which Claire swerves to avoid, and she drives off the bridge into the same lake into which Norman pushed Madison's car. Underwater, Norman tried to drown her and grabs Claire's leg as she escapes out the window, but Madison's decaying body, disturbed by debris falling from the car, floats up, grabs Norman and forces him to release Claire's leg so she can swim to the surface. Norman drowns while staring into the dead face of the woman he killed. Madison's body floats to the surface of the lake as the necklace sinks to the bottom.

The following winter, Claire is seen placing a single red rose on Madison's grave. The camera pans out and an image of Madison's face is seen in the snow.


  • Harrison Ford as Dr. Norman Spencer
  • Michelle Pfeiffer as Claire Spencer
  • Diana Scarwid as Jody
  • Miranda Otto as Mary Feur
  • James Remar as Warren Feur
  • Katharine Towne as Caitlin Spencer
  • Wendy Crewson as Elena
  • Joe Morton as Dr. Drayton
  • Amber Valletta as Madison Elizabeth Frank
  • Ray Baker as Dr. Stan Powell


  • Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer were Robert Zemeckis's first and only choices for the lead roles.
  • Zemeckis filmed What Lies Beneath while production on his other film, Cast Away, was shut down to allow Tom Hanks to lose weight and grow a beard for his character's development.
  • In his career, this is one of Ford's few films in which he plays a villain. Among others are American Graffiti, Ford's first major motion picture role, and The Conversation.


Box office

Budgeted at $50,000,000, What Lies Beneath was released on July 21, 2000 at #1 at the box office, grossing just under $30 million. It continued strongly throughout the summer of 2000, and ended up grossing over $155 million in the United States, and nearly $300 million worldwide.

Critical response

The film holds a rating of 46% on Rotten Tomatoes with the site's consensus stating that "Robert Zemeckis is unable to salvage an uncompelling and unoriginal film." The film received a score of 51 on Metacritic, indicating mixed reviews from critics.

The New York Times wrote that, "at the start, he [Zemeckis] zaps us with quick, glib scares, just to show he still knows how, but his heart isn't in this kind of material anymore. His reflexes are a little slow." The Los Angeles Times called it "spooky with a polished kind of creepiness added in... What Lies Beneath nevertheless feels more planned than passionate, scary at points but unconvincing overall." The Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "Lacking a smarter screenplay, it milks the genuine skills of its actors and director for more than it deserves, and then runs off the rails in an ending more laughable than scary. Along the way, yes, there are some good moments." Time Out thought that, "after a slow build that at times makes every hair stand on endZemeckis rolls out every thriller cliché there is. A pity, because until then it's a smart, realistically staged, adult-oriented and extraordinarily effective domestic chiller." Empire wrote: "The biggest surprise is, perhaps, that what emerges is no masterpiece, but a semi-sophisticated shocker, playfully homaging Hitchcock like a mechanical masterclass in doing ?genre'. The first hour is great fun... It's an enjoyably giddy ride, certainly, but once you're back from the edge of your seat, you realise most of the creaks and groans are from the decomposing script."

Michelle Pfeiffer received some positive notice for her performance. Roger Ebert called her "convincing and sympathetic."

In his review, Ebert said that he felt the problem with Zemeckis's desire to direct a Hitchcockian film was to involve the supernatural, which he believes to be something Alfred Hitchcock himself would never have done. The film Rosemary's Baby (1968) was offered to Hitchcock, and he declined because it involved the supernatural.


Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer both won Blockbuster Entertainment Awards for Favorite ActorSuspense and Favorite ActressSuspense, while Diana Scarwid was nominated for Favorite Supporting ActressSuspense.

The film received three Saturn Award nominations, for Best Horror Film, Best Director (Robert Zemeckis) and Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer).

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "What_Lies_Beneath" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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