Should Things Heard & Seen (2021) Be Heard and Seen?
Title: Things Heard & Seen
First Wide Release: April 29, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Writer: Elizabeth Brundage, Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Runtime: 121 Minutes
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, James Norton, Natalia Dyer
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
George (James Norton) relocates his family to upstate New York for a new teaching job at a small college in an effort not only to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city but also in response to being cut off from his wealthy parents. Catherine (Amanda Seyfried), George’s wife, is supportive, if underwhelmed at the thought of leaving everything behind, especially her friends and promising career. Once they arrive, Catherine begins to suspect that something is deeply wrong with their new house, which reveals something deeply personal about her own history.
Attracting far more hate than it deserves, Things Heard & Seen delivers solid ghostly horror glossed in Lifetime overtones.
Things Heard & Seen is a textbook film of woman being gaslit by a man. George is a classic male manipulator. Mediocre in accolades and only propelling his way up in life by deceit and charm. His dialogue is laced with so many venomous comments about his wife, which despite the period piece setting, shows the malicious intent is very much prevalent. This character is well-done in the fact that he is simultaneously so likeable and unlikeable. When he is around others it’s easy to see why they fall for his charms, but when he is by himself or with Catherine, the real him is exposed.
While this is a pretty standard setup, Things Heard & Seen does a few neat things every now and then. I appreciate the handling of Dyer’s character Willis. All too often in film, we see creators lunge at “the other woman” when the ire should be focused on the cheating husband (or cheater in general). The ghosts influencing the occupants of the house has been done before, but not in a competing manner like what we see in Things Heard & Seen. The women protect and guide the women and the men lead the men down paths of destruction. It’s not framed like an attack on men, as there are several depictions of good men (Billy, Floyd, Sherrif Lawton), but rather how toxic masculinity can destroy everyone.
Is Things Heard & Seen perfect? Absolutely not. Is it good? Well, I think it’s an acquired taste. Personally, I find that the cast is affable and easy to watch, the photography is stunning, and it has an overall moody and tense atmosphere. It is admittedly light on scares and its supernatural influence, but it is still haunting in its own unique way. I know the ending is divisive and it may be the idealist in me, but I do appreciate a happy ending, even if it is hard to find.
Unfortunately, there are many valid criticisms of this film which overwhelmingly stem from the writing. It is littered with unnatural and forced dialogue, characters and subplots are left hung out to dry, and it is such an exercise to get through due to its two-hour runtime which many feel is unnecessary. With proper editing and some expert trimming to the plot, Things Heard & Seen could be a remarkably effective supernatural thriller. This last thought may come down to personal taste, but Justine is such an electric supporting character and Rhea Seehorn deserves more screen time. More of her would have also improved it.
I know I’m in the minority, but I really dug this film. Sure, it’s shallow, plodding, and features a truly bizarre ending, but it is still an incredibly affecting and campy movie. Even still, at times, it is pretty suspenseful, enough to even have me on the edge of my seat. I appreciate its muted approach to horror and how it is relatively steeped in reality. Despite its flaws, Things Heard & Seen is still an enjoyable film that I will gladly re-watch in the future. So, forget what you may have heard and go out and see this little gem.
Overall Score? 6.5/10