Amanda Seyfried and James Norton co-star in a domestic abuse horror that's more concerned with big ideas than big scares
We’ve seen a lot of spins on the “haunted house/haunted family” genre in recent years, from the inherited trauma and mental health issues in Hereditary to motherhood as horror in The Babadook, but Things Heard & Seen might have the most novel gimmick of the bunch – duelling ghosts. Here is a film about a couple troubled by not just one, but a carousel of spectres, all with different agendas, keeping an otherwise rather stuffy horror-thriller feeling just on the side of fresh.
Things Heard and Seen finds young couple Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) and George Claire (James Norton, disguised behind a phenomenally convincing WASP-y American accent) move to a remote old house in upstate New York for George’s job as an art professor. George is a conniving, abusive husband, driving Catherine into developing an eating disorder just so she can retain some control, and when things first start going bump in the night, it seems as if the house itself has started reflecting the toxicity of Catherine’s marriage back at her.
Yet this isn’t all that Things Heard & Seen has up its sleeve, and the slightly rote premise of “the humans are more malign than the ghosts” often gives way to the conflicting motivations of the different spirits of the house as they struggle for control. It makes for compelling, mysterious viewing, building to an admirably batshit ending that is tonally muddled but makes up for it with some swing-for-the-fences visuals and plot twists.
Outside of the central ghost story, Things Heard & Seen is far less interesting. It’s peppered with forgettable supporting characters and predictable, poorly written subplots that waste a lot of time just going through the motions – the film runs at over two hours and can’t quite justify that sort of time investment, even with solid central performances from Seyfried and Norton. Things Heard & Seen isn’t always sure what it wants to say, and it ends up saying it rather slowly, but if you can tap into its wavelength, there’s also quite a bit of otherworldly fun to be had here.
Things Heard & Seen is now streaming on Netflix.Where to watch