As far as haunted house movies go, this one is dull and formulaic.
It’s a tradition in horror movies, in which people entering a new house become terrified by the ghosts who once lived there. The real estate agent always forgets to warn them, because he/she is not supposed to know about them. And there’s always the twist that one of them knew about the house before hand.
That cliche applies to “Things Heard & Seen,” just released on Netflix, directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, and starring Amanda Seyfried and F. Murray Abraham, among others, who both seem overqualified for their particular roles. Some of their dialogue is corny, and other scenes are routine and predictable.
The movie isn’t scary, it isn’t interesting, and it isn’t daring. I mean, it beats dealing with jumpscares, but that’s not saying much.
The time is 1980. A struggling author named George Claire (James Norton) relocates his wife Catherine (Seyfried) and daughter Franny (Ana Sophia Heger) to the Hudson Valley. Immediately, the wife, who is also a bulimic and an artist, becomes concerned about the strange activities going on in the house, while the husband, who just got a job at a liberal arts college, tells her to let it go. And the little girl is always screaming, every time the night light dims and goes out.
The new characters they come across include the local handyman Eddie (Alex Neustaedter) and his brother Cole (Jack Gore); the college chair Floyd DeBeers (Abraham); a Cornell student on hiatus named Willis (Natalie Dyer); and a women’s group member named Justine (Rhea Seehorn).
Among the abrupt changes in the Claires lives, Catherine finds an old ring and puts it on, Franny sees a woman, and George has to cheat on his wife with Willis. And through it all, Catherine reads a book about the spirits of Heaven and Hell, while DeBeers agrees to help her go deeper into the truth of all this apparition by having a seance. Leave it to the experts to examine this, and leave it to the main heroine to handle things on her own.
“Things Heard and Seen” does show us some amazing artwork, like a picture of a cross and a man in a white outfit, which appears on the projector screen, and never changes every time George tries to. And the supporting work from Neustaedter and Dyer are both solid as the two friends Eddie and Willis for their own reasons. The former is the handyman who makes out with Catherine, while Dyer wants to end her affair with George.
It’s a shame I have to appreciate them more than the main actors. Seyfried goes through the motions, while Norton goes all over the place. These two are wasted, along with Abraham, who doesn’t have the intelligence his character previously provided in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
How many times does the little girl have to be involved with the horrors without any character development? How many times do we need to see affairs and know their presence? And how many times to couples have to attack each other over the same conflicts with the same turmoil?
After reading this article, you’re probably wondering why I don’t give it a one star or one and a half star rating. Because “Things Heard and Seen” isn’t a terrible, irritable film. It has its moments, but most of this stuff is the same formula we’ve been done better before. It’s just plain mediocre. This may be on Netflix-maybe on its Top 10 board-but it’ll never catch on.
Streaming on Netflix