When Things Heard & Seen attempts to entangle marital issues with a paranormal influence, it becomes muddled in its own themes.
This review of the Netflix film Things Heard & Seen does not contain spoilers — the horror was released on the streaming service on April 29, 2021.
James Norton and Amanda Seyfried do a marvelous job of a cliche married couple leaving the city to consume the peacefulness of Hudson Valley. Their characters — George and Catherine Claire, signal a marriage that works hard to understand each other. Catherine feels George has made many sacrifices for her, so of course, she feels it is fair that she helps him pursue his dream of being an idolized professor in the beautiful country.
That’s how the story is set up in Netflix’s Things Heard & Seen. However, it soon becomes obvious that there’s something odd about the history of their new home and their relationship. The film witnesses Catherine’s perspective as she battles between the darkness of her marriage and the sinister outlook of her home.
And on paper, the premise looks fool-proof. We can forgive the running-time with a film that’s quite clearly propped up with a star-led cast — Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul) makes a welcome appearance to really beef up matters — Things Heard & Seen has all the ingredients to nail whatever this story is.
It soon dawns on the viewer halfway through the horror film that Things Heard & Seen is not entirely sure of the premise. One thing is for sure — the directors and writers understand what a broken marriage looks like — that aspect of the film works; watching James Norton and Amanda Seyfried navigate their character’s pitfalls, emotionally and physically, is sold. However, when Things Heard & Seen attempts to entangle marital issues with a paranormal influence, it becomes muddled in its own themes.
This film is based on a novel called All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage, so the book may be equally interpretative. There’s certainly nothing wrong with allowing the audience to make assumptions — it’s certainly welcome, especially in horror. It always feels like the directors were not sure themselves what the interpretation is meant to be leading to — is the paranormal the problem in the marriage, or is it the marriage, or both? And while I was happy to form my own opinion, the lack of direction from the creators was transparent.
Things Heard & Seen is disjointed — it feels like the story was put together by a jigsaw rather than a comprehensive storyboard. Paranormal experiences float in and out (no pun intended) in random scenes, only to be uniquely forgotten about the next day. The story never really pins down the husband either — is George simply an attractive arsehole that’s popular with the students, or is it something else? Considering the film runs for two hours, it’s surprising how character perspectives and the concept were not solidified. The narrative throws in many tropes, hoping for the audience to be happy with it.
If you are a fan of the cast, it may be worth giving Things Heard & Seen a chance; however, if not, then this will be a waste of your time.