The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Netflix] - THINGS HEARD & SEEN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Netflix] - THINGS HEARD & SEEN

Things Heard & Seen review
A woman learns the dark secrets of the farmhouse her husband has moved their family into.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, James Norton, Natalia Dyer, Rhea Seehorn, Alex Neustaedter, F. Murray Abraham

Things Heard & Seen poster

There's a prominent kitchen sink in Things Heard & Seen that happens to be the exact same shade of green as the infamous bathroom from Kubrick's The Shining. The movie, directed by the American Splendor duo of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, does take place in 1980, so maybe that shade was prominent in fittings at the time. Nah, who am I kidding; this entire movie is indebted to Kubrick's film. It's another tale of an asshole whose worst tendencies are encouraged by the haunted house he moves his family into. Add in dash of The Amityville Horror, a smidgen of What Lies Beneath, garnish with Michael Winner's 'Turn of the Screw' prequel The Nightcomers, and you have a horror movie that's trying very hard to plug into the contemporary debate around "toxic masculinity" but is devoid of original ideas.

Things Heard & Seen review

The asshole in question here is George (James Norton), a slimy art professor who moves his long-suffering timid wife Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) and their young daughter from their NYC apartment to an old farmhouse in upstate New York to accommodate his taking a position at a provincial college in the area. The house is a steal, but George doesn't divulge the dark history that has pushed its price down – a previous male tenant slaughtered his family within its walls.

While Catherine finds herself struggling with the isolation of her new rural home, George seems happy to be escaping some ambiguous past. Soon he's banging a teenage neighbour (Natalia Dyer) and hitting on a fellow faculty member (Rhea Seehorn). But when a ghost in the home begins communicating with Catherine, George's secrets are in danger of being exposed.

Things Heard & Seen review

Things Heard & Seen is, to put it mildly, a mess. Berman and Pulcini seem far more interested in making a psychological thriller than crafting a ghost story, and the latter element feels awkwardly tacked on. They display little ability to craft scares or build tension. The haunting is represented by a series of clichés as old as the house they occur in, right down to a piano playing itself. The film's key plot revelations are conveyed by characters relating random anecdotes that clue Catherine and the audience into what's going on here. It's not so much things heard and seen as things told, not shown.

This is indicative of how televisual the whole affair feels, particularly in its glacial pacing and lack of economical storytelling. The flat digital sheen so common in Netflix''s mid-budget productions is an ill-fit with the period setting, and if it's trying to evoke the horror movies of that era it sure doesn't borrow any of their memorable visuals.

Things Heard & Seen review

Norton certainly makes for an instantly unlikeable villain, which makes it a shame that the movie couldn't have dispensed with its ghost story subplot (which it clearly has little interest in exploring) and focussed instead on spinning a tale of an evil husband. But then it would still be saddled with the heavy-handed dialogue that keeps telling us that we're watching a film about "toxic masculinity". Things Heard & Seen desperately wants to be a horror movie for our moment, but it's unlikely to haunt your thoughts for more than a minute.

Things Heard & Seen is on Netflix now.

2021 movie reviews