Catherine Clare (Amanda Seyfried) reluctantly trades life in 1980s Manhattan for a remote home in the tiny hamlet of Chosen, New York, after her husband George (James Norton) lands a job teaching art history at a small Hudson Valley college. Even as she does her best to transform the old dairy farm into a place where young daughter Franny will be happy, Catherine increasingly finds herself isolated and alone. She soon comes to sense a sinister darkness lurking both in the walls of the ramshackle property and in her marriage to George.
Starting right away, Netflix has plans to release at least one movie per week for the rest of the year. This is obviously going to be a daunting thing for many to have to keep up with, but it will also ensure that audiences that are quarantining or otherwise just bored will have plenty of content to watch throughout the remaining half of the year.
Sadly though, the weekly release schedule is not off to a great start with Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s Things Heard & Seen – a psychological horror-thriller that starts off relatively intriguing, but with each passing scene and plot thread, it fizzles out to nothing more than a bland and familiar family drama that contains one of the worst and most unsatisfying endings of the past year.
Throughout the duration of the film, we are given little hints that there may be some ghostly backstory to this house that the Clare family is living in. Catherine sees a ghost in the house and it even talks to her every once in a while. Stupidly though, it doesn’t really seem to bother her too much, but George doesn’t notice this ghost whatsoever. Catherine thinks that if she were to tell George about this he would call her crazy and he wouldn’t take this situation seriously.
So already we have a film that doesn’t really have anything super interesting at play. This is not only a concept that we have seen done time and time again, but it’s a concept that’s been executed better in numerous different movies.
Something I did appreciate here was that the movie really doesn’t take a traditional horror approach to its story. There isn’t some over-the-top, loud jumpscare here and there isn’t a genuine horror vibe to it in the long run. But while that’s something I respected, it’s also something that I didn’t really enjoy watching, because this was supposed to be a psychological horror-thriller, and really what we got was a boring family drama.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that 95% of this movie is just a ton of arguing and family drama that seems to never end. George is very clearly a terrible man and an even worse husband and him and Catherine get into an argument on a daily basis. Their family friend Justine Sokolov (Rhea Seehorn) has never liked George because she knew right away how abusive he is and has always got bad feelings from him.
There are just so many elements to this movie that make it feel like an edgy soap opera rather than a true thriller that manages to get under your skin. Nothing about this film kept me on edge.
The cinematography here is actually fairly great, shot by Larry Smith. A ton of the shots are excellently framed and he knows how to use locations such as the Clare family home in clever and bold ways. He ensures that no matter what we are looking at on-screen, it looks stellar.
But the most impressive element to Things Heard & Seen is without a doubt the lead performance from Amanda Seyfried, who continues yet again to prove just how underrated and magnificent of an actress she is. I’ve loved her and her work for years, but it seems that only recently with movies such as First Reformed and Mank that people are finally starting to take her more seriously.
Here, she delivers yet another staggeringly powerful and emotional performance as Catherine Clare. She feels so raw and poignant through every single scene. Sometimes it blows my mind how she has not become a household name yet, because she has yet to disappoint me with any of her performances to date.
Sadly though, at the end of the day, Things Heard & Seen was a colossal disappointment. It never took off the ground and instead of feeling like a genuinely gripping thriller, it just came across as a more mature soap opera. Here’s hoping that Netflix’s weekly film release schedule improves from here on out because this is not a good start.
Overall Grade: D+
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: April 29, 2021
Running Time: 121 minutes