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Movie Review: "Things Heard & Seen"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Netflix Release: 4/29/2021

Netflix Release: 4/29/2021

Synopsis

George Claire (James Norton) has been hired as an art professor in a quiet town in Hudson Valley, New York. He and his wife Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) uprooted their lives and moved to the quiet town with their daughter, Franny (Ana Sophia Heger). Catherine is reluctant about the move, and she is not thrilled about the old house George chose for them to live in, but she is supportive of her husband and his new job, so she does her best to make their old, run-down house a home. Unfortunately, making it into a home will be even more challenging than Catherine thought, as strange things start happening not long after they move in.

Franny’s night light strangely flickers, Catherine smells gas in the night that seems to be coming from their garage, and Catherine even hears the piano playing downstairs while her and her family are all in bed. Catherine quickly suspects the old house might be haunted, but George is annoyed that Catherine is even entertaining the possibility. Nonetheless, upon searching for answers, Catherine discovers the house has a dark past, and that George has been hiding things from her. George is becoming less and less patient with Catherine and her paranormal hunch, and he is becoming hostile. Catherine knows in her gut that their new house is haunted, but what she does not know is who poses a greater threat, the ghost or her husband.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Catherine & George (+8pts)

George (-4pts)

The Haunted House (+4pts)

Paranormal Climax (-4pts)

The Climax (+4pts)

The Ending (-3pts)

movie-review-things-heard-seen

Pro: Catherine & George (+8pts)

The relationship between Catherine and George was the most interesting thing about this movie. First there was George, who was naively pleased with the condition of their new home, he was excited about his new job, and he was optimistic about his family’s potential life in this small town. Then there was Catherine, who was reluctant about the move to begin with, and she became even more reluctant when she saw the condition of her new home. These two characters were not exactly on the same page to begin with. Knowing that, and knowing what kind of movie this was, it was obvious that this relationship was going to be thoroughly tested throughout a shared paranormal experience. This made things interesting, because it was not like everything was all good between these characters beforehand. There was some tension between them to begin with. It was obvious that things were only going to get worse, and I was interested to see how things would play out as a result of that.

I also found it interesting that George adamantly disbelieved in the paranormal, while Catherine was a somewhat of a paranoid believer, and easily freaked out by the paranormal. Then there were potential love interests for both characters, which served as temptations, potentially further expanding the rift between George and Catherine. Finally, there was George’s overall shadiness, and the feeling that he was unstable and hiding something, which added plenty of mystery and suspense to the story. The movie could have been handled better in a few areas, but the relationship between the two main characters was interesting, and it was easily this movie’s greatest strength.

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Con: George (-4pts)

While I liked the mystery surrounding this character and what he might have been hiding, I thought the filmmakers did a poor job with the portrayal of the character. To be clear, the problem here did not lie with the actor in the role. My issue was instead with the things he did and the things he said. The filmmakers just made him too much of a jerk. His actions felt unrealistically mean and hostile, and it made him an obviously evil character.

George was just a bad guy, and it made me not care about him at all. The movie would have been a lot more interesting if I was able to put myself in George's shoes to some extent. Making him a relatable guy that was being corrupted by the house would have made this story a lot more compelling and tragic, but that was not the direction the filmmakers went in. They made him an obvious villain, which made the character and the movie far less interesting than they could have been.

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Pro: The Haunted House (+4pts)

When I saw the ad for this movie on Netflix, I decided to give it a shot, but my expectations were not very high. They were not very high because we have seen tons of haunted house movies already, and I saw nothing in the trailer to suggest the filmmakers were going to do anything different with the concept. Fortunately, I liked how they handled the paranormal presence within the house. The paranormal presence was there, but the filmmakers kept the primary focus of this story on the relationship between the two main characters. In other words, the paranormal presence was certainly in this movie, but it served as more of a supporting character than anything else. I do not want to say too much about the paranormal presence to avoid spoiling what it was or what its intentions were, but I liked how it interacted with the house, and I liked the role it played in Catherine and George's story.

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Con: Paranormal Climax (-4pts)

We have seen plenty of thrillers in which a man or a woman discovered that their spouse or significant other were hiding something and that they may not be who they thought they were. We have also seen plenty of haunted house stories. What was interesting about this movie was that it took those two things and smashed them together. Throughout the rising action, that was very much what this movie was. It was what you would want a decent thriller to be, and it also had some haunted, paranormal occurrences to keep things interesting.

Having these two things—the haunted house and the relationship thriller—in one movie meant that they were each able to shake the other up a bit. Unfortunately, that was not true in the climax. I understand the role the paranormal entity played in the climax, but it felt very much behind the scenes, almost as an after thought. In the rising action, these two aspects of the story worked well together, but in the climax, the filmmakers did not leave any room for the paranormal entity to do anything significant. It felt like the filmmakers forgot about the paranormal entity, as they had it not contribute to the climax in any real way, even though that was what the whole movie felt like it was building toward.

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Pro: The Climax (+4pts)

While I was disappointed with the paranormal presence—or lack thereof—in the climax of the movie, I thought the climax was still exciting. It was intense, it felt like the deck was stacked against Catherine, and it ended in a way that I did not expect. I do not want to say much more about it to avoid spoilers, but it was a decent peak for this story. All of the rising action came to a head, there was violence, there was death, and there were surprises. Could it have been more impactful? Definitely, and could it have benefited from having the paranormal presence more involved? Absolutely, but it was still a decent climax.

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Con: The Ending (-3pts)

My issue here was with the final shot of the movie. I do not want to say who was involved or exactly what happened for obvious reasons, but it just seemed dumb. The filmmakers delivered this artistic, trippy final shot, which looked cool, but it had implications that made the entire movie leading up to it feel pointless. Everything the character involved in the ending did for the entire movie was in the interest of self-preservation. However, this ending seemed to be the opposite, which made the ending feel random and out-of-character. It looked cool, but it was really just an illogical way to end this movie.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

movie-review-things-heard-seen

Grade: B- (80pts)

What intrigued me about this movie was that it combined two different types of stories. It was a thriller about a woman who discovered her husband was hiding things from her, and that he may not have been who she thought he was. However, in addition to all that, this was also a story about that married couple who wound up in a haunted house. This made the movie interesting because it took two types of stories that I was familiar with, but it delivered something interesting by smashing them together, because I was unsure how each part of the story would affect the other. I also thought it was interesting because the two main characters were on rocky ground to begin with, only to end up going through a haunted house storyline in which their relationship would certainly go through even tougher times.

I was interesting to see how things would play out. The filmmakers then did a good job setting up the tense relationship between the two main characters, and they did a good job setting up the mysteriousness of the paranormal presence within the house. I also liked the climax, as it was intense and it did not go how I thought it would. Unfortunately, this movie was not all good. George was stereotypically evil, and it made the character both unbelievable and uninteresting. Then the filmmakers disappointingly had the paranormal presence contribute almost nothing to the climax, and they had an ending that looked really cool, but it was ultimately illogical and out-of-character for the character involved. The movie could have been a lot better than it was, but I still thought it was decent.

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