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 new home are overtaken by a haunting darkness that has to do with the previous owners. As Catherine tries to learn more about the tiny town and its history, her family suffers from haunting memories, mental illness and infidelity.
The movie wastes no time establishing plot lines — the opening scene shows George (James Norton) and Catherine Claire talking to their friends about moving, even though Catherine has her dream job, so that George can teach at a small college in Hudson Valley due to his brilliant dissertation. Catherine privately expresses doubts, but admits that she owes it to George to at least try going to this new town.
Upon moving, Catherine meets two boys who offer their services babysitting, painting and doing whatever chores necessary to help restore the 18th century home. There is tension between the eldest, Eddie (Alex Neustaedter) and Cath, but the family barely has time to address it due to the strange smells and sounds that they start experiencing. These things escalate to broken night lights, broken windows and even spirit sightings as the movie progresses. This creates a rift between George and Catherine as both grow angry and deceitful. Alongside the house’s mysteries and the people who left it behind, Catherine has to navigate George’s deception and manipulation to find out what is true.
“Things Heard and Seen” had an interesting trailer, and I was eager to watch it because I am a fan of Seyfried, but it hardly met its potential. The film, in its emphasis on being spiritual and facing consequences, left me confused and asking more questions by the end. While the movie contains scenes that impressed me and very much fit the thriller genre, I was overall just frustrated by a lot of the artistic decisions made.
I couldn’t understand if I was supposed to think that these characters were possessed or just wildly inconsistent, and why the movie ended the way it did. It had so much potential and the writing truly went in a direction that was disappointing, rushed and made little sense when looking at the plot as a whole. I think that, had it been marketed as more of a psychological thriller than horror, it would have done a lot better, and it should have been maintained that way because it is a strange take on the horror genre.
I will say that I was impressed with the way that the drama and mystery of the supernatural were able to intertwine with this couple and their crumbling marriage, slowly leaving the audience wondering what is the character’s choice and what is entirely haunted or possessed. However, as this question was never actually answered, I was just upset by the end. These individuals leave you wondering their roles in the spiritual world, and how we understand life’s congruence with death, but there is no genuine answer to their decisions. There is no determining what is real or not, again pointing more to a psychological sort of mystery or thriller than a scary/horror film.
I did not care about Catherine or George in the way that I should want to sympathize with a suffering romance. They both made me angry and I did not care about either, so both themes that this film truly wanted to explore just frustrated me. These characters again point out problems with the film because I do not know whether or not the house caused them to act a certain way to a point. However, as we learn more about their past, I wonder why they acted that way; were they just bad people? If so, what is the point of the haunted house? This ambiguity was neither expected nor appreciated, and while Seyfried and Norton’s acting skills carried the film very far, I just was so upset with the characters that I wanted to stop watching.
This film definitely is not for everyone, myself included, but I will say that viewers who prefer an open-ended, thought-provoking film might like to engage with “Things Heard and Seen” if their watchlist is looking particularly dry. It could have been my interpretation of the film and misunderstanding of the director’s artistic decisions, but I personally did not find that the movie lived up to its potential in any way.