Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.
Plot: Catherine (Amanda Seyfried), who secretly suffers from an eating disorder, and her husband George Claire (James Norton) trade Manhattan’s bustling lifestyle for a remote, country farm-like existence in Chosen, New York, when George gets a teaching tenure for art history at the local college. When their daughter Franny begins experiencing strange things, Catherine starts to observe that it’s not all peaceful living at their newly-acquired country residence. And when dark secrets start to slowly reveal themselves Catherine is left questioning her life decisions.
Review: Things Heard & Seen is a strange and sometimes confusing supernatural horror that changes direction many times. You can also miss the hidden metaphors if you are not careful and committed enough. Viewers just need to keep an open mind before viewing this one as it is by no means a bad film.
On the surface it starts off as your typical haunted house scenario with their four-year-old daughter Franny being the first to experience a supernatural event. Catherine soon begins having her own experiences, specifically she is suddenly overwhelmed by the strong smell of exhaust fumes wafting its way into their bedroom from the garage below. But she becomes equally confused when the smell comes and goes. Her husband, George, is a non-believer in the series of strange occurrences and chalks it up to his flaky wife hallucinating due to her food-deprived brain and his overly impressionable daughter who already is a sufferer of night terrors.
George’s true character begins to slowly reveal itself in this isolated country location when he begins to display narcissist tendencies. He refuses to have patience with his wife’s eating disorder or to even consider the fact that something is not right with their house. He puts his hormones and over-inflated ego before his family’s needs by going down an extremely dark path.
With Catherine isolated from her family and friends back in Manhattan she has no one in her corner to validate her haunted experiences. That is until she discovers an old bible that has a rather large family tree scribbled on the inside cover. On that tree the last entry’s name has been scribbled off and replaced with the word “Damned”. Then she meets George’s work colleague Justine Sokolov (Rhea Seehorn) who is immediately suspicious of George and quickly befriends Catherine, even going so far as to take her to a women’s support group. Seyfried’s performance as Catherine is phenomenal as she portrays a woman who is being slowly consumed by her husband’s lies, isolation, and mysterious hauntings.
Soon it becomes clear that Catherine has a protector from the spiritual realm when it begins reacting negatively towards George. However, this is where the plot begins to falter. Why introduce the ghost of a woman who was wronged in life by her husband as a protector of sorts but, despite seeing Catherine heading down the same destructive path with George, still allows her to suffer a similar fate without stepping in to intervene at a particularly dire moment? It was a build-up to failure with that particular story angle in my humble opinion.
The movie considers the theories of a famous theologist named Emanuel Swedenborg, specifically his philosophy on the existence of the afterlife, heaven, and hell as well as the attraction of evil spirits to only persons who inherently possess a dark, evil soul and good spirits who are attracted to those with good and pure souls. While Swedenborg’s theories are exercised here with great skill by peeling away at the layers of a marriage with deep cracks below the surface (it was based on a lot of lies) it became extremely weird when it was applied to the ending sequence which is supposed to represent George’s comeuppance.
Because landscape art was used a background focal point to represent the transitioning of the couple’s situation and crumbling marriage, the weather is used to bring about the fact that Mother Nature has had enough of George’s behaviour and basically takes him out in an extremely anticlimactic way. This makes the film suffer greatly and takes with it all the great suspenseful build-up that came before it.
However, apart from that, I will say Things Heard & Seen is still an extremely entertaining watch that explores some deep theological theories and the dangers of a marriage that has been built on deeply buried lies.
Dark Alice’s Score: 6 out of 10
Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook where you’ll get my reviews hot off the press. You can also find me on Instagram as alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For my extended bio you can click here.