Thursday, April 29, 2021

Things Heard & Seen


Art restorer Catherine Claire (Amanda Seyfried) is forced to abandon her life in Manhattan and move to Chosen when her husband George (James Norton) lands a teaching job at Saginaw College. They settle in a newly acquired farmhouse replete with history dating back all the way back to the late 1800s. It does not take long before mother and daughter feel that they are not alone in the house. She finds random stuff from previous owners such as a thick book chronicling family trees and death anniversaries from generations past, an old piano music sheet, as well as an antique ring embedded on the kitchen’s windowpane. Their daughter also reports seeing a woman watching her as she sleeps in her room. Digging deeper into their new home’s history. Catherine discovers various secrets, not just about their new abode, but also of the very family she thought she knew well.

I enjoyed this movie. Apparently, a lot of people did not, based on the mixed reviews that can be found online. Perhaps coming into the narrative without the slightest idea about the source material helped a lot in establishing reasonable expectations? I like how the plot unfolds and how it keeps you interested by wooing you to play detective and guess where the storyline is headed to. That is the journey. The destination, on the contrary, is quite a different story, especially that strange ending that felt so vague and rushed.

While marketed as yet another haunted house movie, Things Heard & Seen feels rather different, both in a good and bad way. One of the pros is that the jump scares are few. It is established that there are spirits in the house and that some of them are not friendly, but there isn’t much going on aside from the repetitive supernatural tinkering with the family’s electronics. If anything, what comes across as more intriguing is the couple’s relationship as well as the secrets they are hiding from one another.

As for the cons, well, the film appears to be low budget at best. There’s imagery, especially those that involve the supernatural, that are akin to those you find in made for TV movies and weekly paranormal TV series. While the use of such plot device is kept to a minimum, it still appears a bit tacky, which kind of diminishes the overall impact somehow. I guess the culmination of that is the very ending which aimed high for symbolism but fell short and landed in weird territory.

Oh yes, symbolism. I think better appreciation for this film could be had if one is well versed in art, the Hudson River School in particular. And then you also have Emanuel Swedenborg’s theological musings which serve as a recurring reference all throughout. There is obviously an attempt on a bigger philosophical interpretation here. Unfortunately, it seems like a niche that the pedestrian viewer will end up neither understanding nor appreciating.

As for the acting, both Seyfried and Norton work with what they are given, which isn’t much. This is definitely not an actor’s movie because it’s the storyline and the underlying themes that keep the viewers hooked. I’d say watch it for the mystery, which is plenty during the first half. The second half is when the twist becomes more and more obvious and predictable, making you wish that somehow a closing salvo would swoop in and save the day, except that there isn’t one. As a weekend TV movie to ward off boredom, though, this should suffice.

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