Things Heard and Seen feels quaint, as it switches between showing the objects around the lives of a young couple during 1970s. This couple, by the way, are George (James Norton) and Catherine Claire (Amanda Seyfried). And they eventually get enough of the movie’s spotlight for its first ten minutes.
The couple is sexy but without the warmth of young love. Anyway, the couple move away from Manhattan because George moves from Columbia to Upstate New York. This is supposed to be the couple’s fresh start, but the haunted house says maybe. The town’s name, by the way, is Saginaw, which confuses viewers between this fictional one and the one in Michigan.
Adapting Elizabeth Brundage’s book All Things Cease to Appear, the movie then attempts to flesh out more details in Catherine’s life. An artist turned wife – I’ve done more chores than she has – she basically spends her time at home.
It’s either that for Catherine or going to Saginaw’s historical society where she eventually sees pictures of the house she and George just bought. It’s sad, however, when she discovers that he, an art history professor, stops sharing her many interests.
The more time the movie spends on the couple, the more it shows the people who try to tear them apart. There’s Eddy Lucks (Alex Neustader), their home’s groundskeeper, and there’s Willis (Natalia Dyer), a woman George has an affair with.
Of course, the other thing driving the Claires apart are the ghosts, which begins my first complaint here that there aren’t enough of them. Why make a horror movie and show the ghosts in like three scenes? Instead of appearing, they’re entities that the characters make conjectures about in the seances Catherine hosts.
And if a horror movie isn’t going to show its ghosts and monsters in the literal sense, at least it can make its humans more interesting. Things does no such thing especially with George, who makes for a boring villain. Norton looks like he can expertly snivel, a talent this movie underuses. And both he and Seyfried don’t know what to do with the 1970s bourgeois American English. The dialect, by the way makes the movie more dated than it already is.
By the way, Floyd de Beers (F. Murray Abraham), who happens to work with George, is now Claire’s seance best buddy. Imagine casting Seyfried and Abraham in a horror film and somehow both of them come off as bland together. Other supporting actors include Karen Allen, who looks like a supportive mom of a gay man, and Rhea Seehorn with her deep voice. These two deserve their own, better movies.
Things also uses these seances and its other scenes to explain the rules around these ghosts as good creatures. This is fine and everything. But why is there world building happening late into the movie instead of conflicts solving themselves?
Lastly, and as a reminder, this is a horror movie that’s tangentially about art, which are things that balance themselves out. How does a genre movie about art end up looking uninteresting on screen? Its shadows and candlelit scenes end up looking blah.