‘Things Heard and Seen’ tells a confusing and frustrating story

By Zoe Talbot

When artist Catherine Claire (Amanda Seyfried) and her family move to the Hudson Valley, she begins to suspect that her marriage and her new home are overtaken by a haunting darkness that has to do with the previous owners. As Catherine tries to learn more about the small town and its history, her family suffers from haunting memories, mental illness and infidelity.

The film wastes no time establishing plots – the opening scene shows George (James Norton) and Catherine Claire talking to their friends about the move, even though Catherine has her dream job, so George can teach at a small college in Hudson Valley because of his brilliant essay. Catherine privately expresses doubts, but admits that she at least owes George for trying to get to this new town.

“Things Heard and Seen,” released April 29, looks more like a psychological thriller than a horror movie (Netflix).

During her move, Catherine meets two boys who offer their services to babysit, paint and perform any chores needed to help restore the 18th century house. There is tension between the eldest, Eddie (Alex Neustaedter) and Cath, but the family barely has time to tackle it due to the odd smells and sounds they start to feel. These things degenerate into broken nightlights, shattered windows, and even mind observations as the film progresses. This creates a rift between George and Catherine as the two get angry and cheating. Along with the mysteries of the house and the people who left it behind, Catherine must navigate George’s deception and manipulation to find out what is true.

“Things Heard and Seen” had an interesting trailer, and I couldn’t wait to watch it because I’m a fan of Seyfried, but it barely reached its potential. The film, by emphasizing being spiritual and dealing with the consequences, left me puzzled and asked me more questions at the end. While the movie had some scenes that impressed me and fit the thriller genre very well, overall I was frustrated with a lot of the artistic decisions that were made.

I couldn’t understand if I was supposed to think these characters were possessed or just incredibly inconsistent, and why the movie ended like this. There was so much potential and the writing really went in a disappointing, rushed, and meaningless direction when you look at the plot as a whole. I think if it had been marketed more as a psychological thriller than a horror it would have done a lot better, and it should have been kept that way because it’s a weird take on the horror genre.

I will say I was in awe of how the drama and mystery of the supernatural was able to intertwine with this couple and their crumbling marriage, slowly leaving audiences wondering what the character choice is and what is entirely haunted or possessed. However, since this question was never answered, I was just upset at the end. These people leave you to wonder about their role in the spiritual world and how we understand the congruence of life with death, but there is no genuine answer to their decisions. There is no determination of what is real or not, again indicating some sort of psychological mystery or thriller than a horror / horror movie.

I didn’t care about Catherine or George like I should want to sympathize with a suffering romance. They both made me angry and I didn’t care either, so the two themes that this movie really wanted to explore just frustrated me. These characters again point to issues with the movie because I’m not sure if the house made them act a certain way up to a point. However, as we learn more about their past, I wonder why they acted this way; Were they just bad people? If so, what is the point of the haunted house? This ambiguity was neither expected nor appreciated, and although Seyfried and Norton’s acting skills took the film to great heights, I was so angry with the characters that I wanted to stop watching.

This movie is definitely not for everyone, myself included, but I will say that viewers who prefer an open-ended and thought-provoking movie might like to engage with “Things Heard and Seen” if their watchlist seems particularly dry. It could have been my take on the film and a misunderstanding of the director’s artistic decisions, but I personally did not find the film to live up to its potential in any way.

About Cecil Cobb

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