Here’s something you already know: Netflix original films are generally not brilliant. Barring a few anomalies like The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Mitchells vs. the Machines, the streaming giant doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for putting out brilliant movies. So, as you’d expect, I didn’t go into this movie with much hope of enjoying it. On this occasion though, I was actually pleasantly surprised, especially as so many critics were completely slating it.
Things Heard & Seen is based on a novel named All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage, which was loosely based on a true story involving the 1982 murder of a young woman named Cathy Krauseneck. Yes, it’s based on a lot of things. Starring Amanda Seyfried as leading lady Catherine Clare, the film is about what happens when she, her husband and her daughter move out of bustling Manhattan to an old, possibly haunted house in upstate New York. Before long, Catherine begins to find out some disturbing truths about the family who lived in their house before them, and strongly suspects that something supernatural is going on. Basically, it sounds like the plot of a horror film, but it’s more of a cerebral thriller with strong Rebecca vibes.
Something tells me that the book was better, which is usually the case… but I actually don’t think the one star reviews are warranted on this occasion. And boy, there are a lot of them.
I won’t mince my words and pretend it’s perfect: this film is full of horror clichés. Objects moving by themselves, a haunted house, lights flickering, a strange smell coming from nowhere, blah blah blah. If only they had done away with these tropes and focused more on its Bly Manor and Rebecca style thriller elements, it might have been more successful and have more appeal to a broader audience. However, it’s mysterious enough to maintain interest if you’re into this sort of thing. And I am. Good for me!
Perhaps the movie’s best feature is the cast, each of whom actually do a really great job in their respective roles. James Norton is the perfect arsehole, Amanda Seyfried plays the main character with the right amount of hysteria, but the supporting cast is really where it’s at. Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things) is much more interesting in this than she’s ever been before, Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul) threatens to steal the whole show, and does anything even need to be said for F. Murray Abraham? His rather small role comes with the biggest sense of intrigue. Were it not for the cast, I’d probably have lost interest half way through, but they put in a huge amount of work to make sure that wasn’t the case.
Technically, it’s not a poorly made movie. Though the cinematography and camerawork are pretty average, they get the job done. It’s lit well (really well, in fact), the soundtrack is decent… the only gripe I have is with the script. Though it’s often entertaining and gripping, it’s way too long at 121 minutes and several scenes should have ended up on the cutting room floor. Narratively, it’s often way too obvious – similar stories have been told many times before. However, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it, perhaps more than the majority.
Overall, I actually really liked Things Heard & Seen, and the ending was much better than I anticipated. My main takeaway though is that Justine (Seehorn) is obviously the MVP when it comes down to it.
Anyway, I don’t really understand why people aren’t connecting with this movie – I’d definitely recommend it. Just don’t expect too much.
Things Heard & Seen is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.
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Costume & Set Design:
Overall Rating: ½