Things Heard & Seen: A Poorly Executed Adaptation

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R E V I E W – M O V I E

Takrim Hossain

The highly awaited netflix horror drama Things Heard & Seen was released on 29 April this year. But unfortunately, this film adaptation of the 2006 novel All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage has been a big let down on almost every front.

The film has been written & directed by husband-wife duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini who have previously directed comedy dramas like American Splendor and The Extra Man. However, their first take on the supernatural genre has lacked spark. Their attempt to make a gothic horror out of Things Heard & Seen has fallen flat on its face. 

The plot revolves around a married couple of art historians with dysfunctional relationship, who move from Manhattan to the fictional town of Chosen, NY in 1980. They give up their comfortable city lifestyle and move upstate for George’s new job as an art history professor in a liberal arts college. His wife Catherine, who is an art restorer herself, is seen to give up her career opportunities to allow her husband to pursue his own. 

Soon after they move to the 1880’s house in this new place, Catherine and her four year old daughter start feeling the presence of supernatural entities. Catherine starts making relationships with the townsmen in order to know about the history of their seemingly haunted house and eventually finds about the dark past of the house. But her husband is always dismissive about her concerns about the house and somehow always manages to tie it up with Catherine’s eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Meanwhile, Catherine learns about George’s own dark past and their marriage takes a real bad turn. 

Even though this trope of “a couple stuck in a fractured marriage where the husband is a gaslighter” has been told over a thousand times on the big screen, this film did have the potential to stand out, had not the directors made a complete mess out of their direction and script.

The movie starts off well and is pretty good for the first half an hour or so. But then it all goes downhill afterwards. The dialogues are plain average; the script is way too predictable and lacks suspense. The first half of the film seems like a horror thriller and similarities with movies like The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby are evident. The directors haven’t tried to use cheap jump scares to create the horror imagery, but what they’ve tried instead hasn’t also been successful to create an amusing horror vibe. During the second half, the focus shifts to the more realistic psycho-spouse thriller, but the directors’ failure to generate suspense disappoints again.

On a good note, the entire acting department has done well. The cast is pretty big and almost everyone of them has acted well. The performance of Oscar-nominated Amanda Seyfried is especially noteworthy. Her character, Catherine, goes through an emotional rollercoaster throughout the movie and is able to connect to the viewers. Other than the acting, the only good thing this film has to offer is the cinematography. Larry Smith has beautifully captured upstate New York, and his work with the close-up shots and the gore scenes during the end of the film is commendable. 

But the acting, cinematography, and the fairly decent start to the film do not make up for the poor direction and dull script. And Things Heard & Seen ends up being super bland and a very unsatisfactory adaptation of the novel.

Chances are, Things Heard & Seen will give you 100 reasons to regret your decision to watch it. You’ll end up feeling like the directors didn’t follow up on its core issues and brought up non-scary mumbo jumbo, meaningless mythology and theological topics, and then weren’t even able to make sense out of them as well. However, if you’ve got an abundance of time on your hand and the skill to not feel bad about the complete destruction of a potential good movie in front of your own eyes, you can probably watch this.


Md. Takrim Hossain is a life-long Liverpool fan & a proud Slytherin who spends the day annoying people talking about Geopolitics and Military history and the night by himself, flipping through the pages of Asterix while listening to Britpop and maybe re-watching a classic David Lynch or a Wong Kar-wai masterpiece.

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