Things Heard and Seen 2021 Review

Things Heard and Seen is an unusual, psychological horror film where several tropes are turned on their heads, while the important beats are still captured. Domestic relationships, power dynamics, and identity are all explored in a way that respects the person as more than a victim and an archetype.

A Manhattan artist relocates to the country to appease her husband. Once there, she begins to uncover sinister secrets about both her new town and her marriage. The film is based on a novel by Elizabeth Brundage, entitled “All Things Cease to Appear”.

The film’s acting is one of its top strengths.  Amanda Seyfried plays one of her deepest roles yet, which is not to be underestimated. She is not only able to play someone struggling in her situation, but also a woman who is brave, intelligent, and done putting up with what the other characters are pushing her way. It is a refreshing twist on where a film generally takes this type of plotline.

Not to let Amanda steal all of the credit, although she deserves much, standout acting is also seen by James Norton as the challenging George Claire, Alex Neustaedter as a helpful neighbor boy, Eddie Vayle, and F. Murray Abraham as the enigmatic Floyd DeBeers.

The cinematography and effects work hand in hand to enhance the subtleties in the film. Rather than relying on jump scares, lurking terrors will often be glossed over and passed by, tempting one to rewind to see if they really noticed what was in the frame.

Things Heard And Seen: (L-R) James Norton, as George Clare, Amanda Seyfried as Catherine Clare. Cr. Anna Kooris/NETFLIX © 2020.

Where the film suffers is being heavy-handed with its religious and spiritual layers. Especially in the final twenty minutes, some of the tension is lost by how much disbelief one is able to suspend. That final phase definitely reduced my rating by one full star. Otherwise, I believe they tied the spiritual aspects into the plot in a way that worked, before letting it go to increasingly absurd levels at the finale.

Nevertheless, the pacing is strong, especially when one factors in the empathy for the characters. I found myself shouting at the screen several times, truly invested in its outcome. The initially stereotypical ghost is also given an interesting function within the greater plot so that she receives more of a personality and a thought-provoking twist for the director to play with.

As in many haunted house films, the sets are rather limited to a few locations. Yet one thing that sets Things Heard and Seen apart is the establishment of the outside lives of its main cast. We get to see what the husband does for his livelihood, what his social veneer is like, how he acts both with and without his wife, and likewise for her character. Their identities inside and outside of their marriage are explored to great length, portraying the social commentary of marriage and many unhealthy relationships the author established within the original work.

For those who are fans of psychological horror, exploring potential mental issues, and deeper character analysis, Things Heard and Seen is a recommended film. However, one will need to give some grace to its ending.


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