CAST: Amanda Seyfried, James Norton, Natalia Dyer, Rhea Seehorn, Alex Neustaedter, Karen Allen, Jack Gore, F. Murray Abraham
RUNNING TIME: 119 mins
BASICALLY…: After relocating to the suburbs, an artist (Seyfried) begins to suspect her marriage has a sinister darkness to it…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
For a film with a rather impressive cast, and the added pedigree of Oscar-nominated writers and directors on its creative team, there’s surprisingly very little to say about Things Heard & Seen.
In short, you’ve seen this kind of thriller many, many times over. We’re talking about everything from The Shining to The Amityville Horror to even The Talented Mr. Ripley loaning some of their plot points to this movie, and almost every time you’re reminded that these are much better movies that exists and are more worth your time than this rather forgettable amalgamation.
Set in the early 80s, we follow Catherine (Amanda Seyfried), an artist wife and mother who relocates from her New York City apartment to a farm house in the upper state countryside, with her husband George (James Norton) who’s just secured a professor job at a nearby university. It doesn’t take long for Catherine to notice some paranormal activity around the house – flickering lights, mysterious rings, some admittedly effective quick shots of the ghosts themselves, and the rest of the usual suspects – but unfortunately, she’s the type of badly-written character who knows something is horribly wrong about this place, and yet she still chooses to stay there and go about her regular routine, even when she clearly sees evidence that there’s another presence in this residence.
Even worse, it takes her way longer than it should to realise that something is up with her husband, who we almost immediately know to be a wrong’un. George, for lack of a better description, is an absolute bastard; smug, condescending, quick to fool around with a local girl played by Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer, prone to violence at the drop of a hat, and eventually goes much further in order to retain his self-centred status quo. Much like Catherine, he is written to be just this two-dimensional caricature, the kind of villain that is so cartoonishly evil that it’s almost impossible to imagine how he has managed to hide his true nature for this long before someone was able to put the pieces together, and who – in true Guillermo del Toro fashion, even though his name is not attached to this whatsoever – turns out to be much scarier than the actual supernatural entities in the movie. However, while on paper the character is pretty much as thin as everything else, the casting of James Norton was kind of a stroke of genius, because (no offense to the guy, who’s a fine actor and probably a decent guy in real life) he does have an extremely punchable face that perfectly suits this evil character, and his performance is firmly committed enough to the character’s ever-deepening depths that it’s almost fun to watch this terrible person continue to do more and more horrible things.
The rest of the film, alas, doesn’t match up to that unexpected form of entertainment. Sadly, Things Heard & Seen is mostly a bore, with long stretches of very little things happening while you’re always one step ahead of Amanda Seyfried – also good in the movie, despite the thin character – in figuring out what’s going on, and filled with dialogue that’s often hokey (Seyfried, who at one point vomits after hearing yet another piece of evidence against her husband, says to him that she’s “throwing up their marriage”). Filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini – previously Oscar-nominated for their script to the 2003 biopic American Splendor – seem to be working on autopilot here, bringing little to the overall craft other than a couple of moody shots every now and then, and giving supporting character actors like F. Murray Abraham and Karen Allen almost nothing to do through the whole thing.
It’s not worth talking about much more, because there’s really nothing other than some entertaining performances that are holding Things Heard & Seen together. It’s yet another in-one-ear-and-out-the-other movie that should be better than it is, but instead is just wildly, unremarkably mediocre.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Things Heard & Seen is a forgettable thriller that borrows heavily from much better thrillers and leaves little else, other than a couple of entertaining performances, to its name.