The 2021 Netflix Original, Things Heard & Seen, is a tedious journey through a rehashed version of every predictable horror movie. The film focuses on a disconnected family who has just moved away from the hustle and bustle of city life to the serene country, only to find out that their new home is haunted. (Never heard that one before, right?) Apart from the unoriginal premise, characters struggle to stutter through their cumbersome dialogue, the performances prove subpar, and the plotline is bizarrely convoluted.
Isolation, jump scares, religious imagery, full-on apparitions, and a housewife feeling as if she is the only one spiraling out of control, Things Heard & Seen, contains every fathomable horror trope. Potentially, the film could have pulled these stereotypes off by not taking itself too seriously, as in fun horror flicks like Happy Death Day. However, with a gloomy setting, somber tone, and a soundtrack composed exclusively of ominous melodies, the movie clearly wanted to play in the big leagues (though only of minor quality).
Things Heard & Seen is surprisingly chalked full of reputable actors. Amanda Seyfried has shown versatility in her roles, yielding raw emotion in off-beat films such as First Reformed as well as showcasing the strength of her voice in Les Misérables. As Catherine Claire in Things Heard & Seen, she sounds unconvinced when delivering her lines and can only muster the same, consistently doe-eyed, expression anytime a new truth is uncovered. James Norton (who delivered a noteworthy performance as John Brooke in the 2019 Little Women remake) plays Claire’s cheating, possibly perverted, husband George. Norton is unable to come across as a bad guy, and over-exerts his emotions to such a degree, viewers are frequently reminded that he is an actor, and that this story is not real. Even Stranger Things star, Natalia Dyer, embodies mannerisms far too stiff to be believable while playing George’s young, awkwardly provocative mistress.
The two-hour-long film has a slow pace and jumpy plotline. The family’s initial move is very abrupt, setting the audience up for confusion from the beginning. Things Heard & Seen then takes time to indulge in a fair amount of filler, such as George’s affair, Claire’s flirtation with a teenage groundskeeper, and the couple going over to the home of kooky acquaintances, where they watch alpacas eat grass (seriously). Abrasively switching back to the central plot, Catherine has figured out who is haunting her home, only to immediately be told she has the wrong ghost, and her husband has been keeping the disturbing history of their house a secret. Without leaving enough time for viewers to process this revelation, the characters perform a seance. After that, it’s more fluff, including yet another dinner party. Finally, the film reaches it’s conclusion, which is predictably incessant with clichés, including: murder, a coma, and more murder. (Plus, a sprinkle of identity theft and a dash of child abduction for good measure.) Things Heard & Seen is discombobulation at its finest with little build-up and zero flow.
An unredeemable miss, it is clear why Things Heard & Seen slipped under the radar. However, this low-quality film should not make viewers give up hope on Netflix’s original horror films as a whole. There are hidden gems amongst the ruff of this streaming service’s exclusives, such as The Devil All the Time (2020) and The Ritual (2017).