Remember Amanda Seyfried from Red Riding Hood, a romance horror film produced by Leonardo DiCaprio? Or the dark comedy/horror Jennifer’s Body, in which Amanda played an insecure and studious teenage lead? Well, she’s all grown up now, has a degree in the Arts, and lives in a haunted house with her narcissistic husband. No, we’re not talking about a Jennifer’s Body sequel, but a freaky new Amanda Seyfried movie which released on Netflix today.
Things Heard & Seen, an American horror-thriller film starring Amanda Seyfried and James Norton, released today (April 29, 2021) on Netflix, the world’s largest streaming platform. It’s a haunted house/poltergeist story set in 1980, which follows Catherine and George, as they move from Manhattan, where George got his Ph.D. in art history, to Hudson Valley, where he lands a job as a professor at a small private college.
To make that transition possible, Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) would have to pause her career as an art restorer and make it into sacrificial kindling for her husband’s professional flame. And indeed, she does so, with a quiet regret that would become more tangible when they move into their not-so-new home George (James Norton) bought with his parent’s money. The house is a fixer-upper with good bones, and Catherine, who restores old churches for a living, is more than skillful enough for the renovations and repairs. She does so, with excellent taste, allowing the narrative to settle on her own point of view while her husband chases his dream of being an academic superstar in the upstate countryside.
Unfortunately, the old dairy farm Amanda Seyfried is trying to transform into a happy childhood place for her daughter hides a horrific story. And honestly, for any Amityville lovers out there, the house screams horrors, as it’s built in the 18th century, beautiful, foreboding, and as isolated from the rest of the town, as the town is from the rest of the world. Catherine begins finding unsettling things about the house, its previous owners, and the items they’ve left behind, along with bits and pieces of themselves. The light flickers, a rocking chair swinging by itself, and an electric toothbrush going off for no apparent reason all scream one thing – poltergeist. No, not the movie, but the supposed phenomena.
By this time, it’s pretty clear that we’re watching an Amanda Seyfried haunted house horror movie, and ghosts or some other supernatural thing is about to appear. But they don’t. Like the movie completely forgot about Chekhov’s gun, a dramatic principle which states that all the story elements must be necessary to the story. If there’s a rifle hanging on the wall in the first chapter, it absolutely must go off in the second or the third chapter. Why don’t the ghosts do anything once they’re introduced to the story? And why isn’t the story scary?
Despite all the horror elements, and there’s plenty, it feels like the movie completely neglected Chekhov’s law and left many questions unanswered and many stones unturned. Both Amanda Seyfried and James Norton interpret the testy toxic chemistry of a failing marriage really well, and that’s a horror story in itself. But the movie toys with the idea of death as a bridge between the physical and spiritual world but never connects the two, making the appearance of ghosts similar to that of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Amanda Seyfried is an American actress and singer of German, English, and Scottish ancestry. She starred in many successful films, such as Mamma Mia!, Solstice, Jennifer’s Body, and Chloe. Seyfried’s credited with 61 appearances, with several nominations and awards in her career, winning the Best Actress award in 2005 for her work in Nine Lives, and Best Supporting Actress in Mank, a biographical drama about Herman J. Mankiewicz.
Things Heard & Seen is a cinematographic adaptation of All Things Cease to Appear, a novel written by Elizabeth Brundage, settling on a marriage and a murder on a dairy farm. The book earned four stars on Google Books, with many reviews describing it as a story that ended before it started. Unfortunately, the movie seems to follow the book’s footsteps – just a few hours after its release, Things Heard & Seen already amassed mixed reviews, calling its terrors hauntingly banal.