Netflix’s latest supernatural thriller either took itself too seriously to remember or not seriously enough to matter.

By now, Netflix has created its own subgenre of digestible thrillers that nuzzle into the public discourse for a moment until they release a new one the week later. Not quite B-movies (though Velvet Buzzsaw came close), there is still a level of camp to Bird Box, I Am Mother, and even the hilariously bad Secret Obsession starring Brenda Song that draws people onto Twitter to ask, what the hell did I just watch? Especially in times like these, its almost a bonding experience. Things Heard & Seen starring the Oscar-nominated Amanda Seyfried (Mank) and perpetual scary creep James Norton (Happy Valley) is not one of those movies.Based on the novel All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage, the supernatural drama follows a young family of three picking up their comfortable life in 1980s Manhattan for a decrepit dairy farm in the fictional upstate town of Chosen, New York. Catherine Claire (Seyfried) is a prominent art restorer with a debilitating eating disorder that is giving up her illustrious career to allow her husband George (Norton) a chance to pursue his own as an art history professor.Unfortunately, the first 25 minutes of the film are packed with so much exposition it felt like forever before we even made it out of the city. The dialogue starts off excruciatingly unoriginal, which is a surprise coming from a writing and directing team like Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman (American Splendor). When a friend of Clares points out that shes a big city girl with your dream job about to give up everything shes worked so hard for, Clare rationalizes that George has made some big sacrifices for her. What sacrifices, exactly, we never learn.
Eventually, they do make it to the home George purchased without consulting his wife. It clearly needs a lot of work, but look at these bones! In case you didnt know, thats scary movie 101 for this house is haunted as hell.After a rough start, the Things Heard & Seen finds its footing for a moment when it stops telling us about the Clares and we get to see the couple as they truly are: fractured and toxic. While Catherine is haunted by the presence of potentially malevolent spirits, George dismisses her concerns with condescending jokes and patronizing concerns that make it easy for herself and others to doubt her experiences. As Catherine looks into the homes sordid history and attempts to forge relationships in town, her husband becomes increasingly controlling and erratic.
The more she learns about the house, which has seen its fair share of abhorrent men, ill-kept secrets about its history and Georges own past lead Catherine to question everything hes ever told her. The tension builds as his glossy veneer tarnishes completely and were left with the true villains of this story: mediocre men with PhDs in gaslighting.
Still, Seyfried and Nortons layered performances dont make up for a messy attempt at creating a supernatural allegory for the trauma of emotional abuse. Unlike the 2020 Blumhouse thriller The Invisible Man, which uses the genre to amplify the horror of being trapped in a relationship with a charming abuser, Things Heard & Seen distracts from its most compelling moments with hokey séances and frankly boring lore.
One bright spot of the film is a sardonic college student played by Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things) who breaks down Georges facade even as she partakes in their illicit affair. You think because I f*** you, Im fooled by you, she asks him. My dad made a fortune defending them: thieves, conmen, psychopaths. And they all got off because thats the way the world works for men. If Pulcini and Berman followed that thread instead of attempting to tie everything into their convoluted mythology, Things Heard & Seen might have made a bigger impact.
When things do eventually hit their unexpected climax, the filmmakers struggle to deliver any specific point. The spirits that inhabit the farm act as counterparts to its living inhabitants, but its hard to tell if George was ever influenced by a higher evil when he was so unforgivable to begin with. Catherine was damned well before she moved into that haunted house.