Things Heard & Seen, now on Netflix, at first glance sounds like something that would hit all the right beats. It has a phenomenal cast, great directorial team, and a story that on paper would translate well to the medium. But after sitting though the movie, and thinking on it, Things Heard & Seen feels confused, unfocused and like a case of wasted potential.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for a good haunted house movie. These are the sorts of movies I eagerly mark down in my calendar the minute I hear they are coming to streaming sites or theatres. From the cerebral movies like The Others, to the grimy campy schlock like The Amityville Horror, there is something I just enjoy about a good old-fashioned ghost in a house story.
At first glance, this is what Things Heard & Seen, is trying to do. It gives the viewer a story of a couple who has a marriage that is crumbling around them, all the while they are uprooted, now living in a new town, in a house that is filled with history and tragedy, and a ghost that will not be silenced. But, somehow even with all that, and a scene with someone being brutally murdered with an axe, I felt bored, and had somehow lost interest in anything I was watching.
Set in 80’s small town America, Things Heard & Seen brings Amanda Seyfried and Brit heartthrob James Norton as Catherine and George, a young couple that find themselves as the residents of a haunted farmhouse. As George sets up as the new art teacher at the local college, Catherine tries to come to terms with her new existence in a small town while getting a grasp on her sanity, and what is really going on with her marriage.
With a star-studded cast, including Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham, Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things), and Karen Allen (Animal House), the talent on the screen is staggering. They all work together to paint the little town as a place filled with secrets and hiding a history.
That history is the tragedy that lay in the past of the little farmhouse Catherine and George now find themselves in. Stories of abuse, neglect and bloodshed. But this being a new-age loving town, Professor Floyd DeBeers (F. Murray Abraham) helps push the boundaries of the supernatural to try to hear more of what is really happening. With a daughter that hears the spirits, to creepy visions plaguing Catherine days and nights, this house has it all.
The only thing the film does not have is a cohesive plot that makes the audience care about what is going on. There are some great ideas at play, and as I mentioned, the cast is outstanding, but there feels a disconnect between the haunted house storyline, and the marriage crumbling storyline. Both have potential, especially with some ways George mistreats the people around him being truly unsettling, but none of it seems to ever take the shape of a movie worth your time or effort.
Things Heard & Seen feels like a wasted opportunity from top to bottom. The directors and writers have delivered some amazing stuff in the past—looking at you American Splendor — and the novel it is based on, All Things Cease to Appear, has a solid fan base behind it and I hear good things (have not read it at time of writing). But somehow, even with the fantastic cast, it did not translate.
I wanted to like Things Heard & Seen, and if I think back, there were many scenes I felt were fantastically done, but even with that, there is not enough here to recommend. This is just another in a series of movies on Netflix that drip with potential, but somehow all miss the mark. At the end of the day the cast deserved better, and this is a movie better left unheard and unseen.