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- Things Heard & Seen
- Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
- Written by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, based on the novel by Elizabeth Brundage
- Starring Amanda Seyfried, James Norton and F. Murray Abraham
- Classification R; 119 minutes
Amanda Seyfried has a real thing for haunted houses and horrible spouses. Less than a year after she starred in You Should Have Left, in which she and Kevin Bacon tried to escape a demonic Airbnb in Wales, Seyfried is back with Things Heard & Seen, in which she and James Norton contend with a spooky estate in the Hudson Valley. Well, good for Seyfried: She’s found a niche and is running with it.
Good for audiences, too – at least when it comes to Things Heard & Seen, a marked improvement on her previous horror go-round.
Opening in the winter of 1980, the film focuses on the upper-class Clare clan: artist Catherine (Seyfried), art-history professor and wannabe painter/novelist George (Norton) and adorable daughter Franny (Ana Sophia Heger), who have moved from Manhattan to the sticks. While the smarmy George teaches at the local college, immediately charming his young female students, Catherine and Franny are left to explore their new home, which comes with a pair of suspicious hired hands and a rather spirited history.
Based on that setup, you might guess where Things Heard & Seen is heading, but filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor, HBO’s Succession) are more interested in toying with expectations than succumbing to them. Adapting Elizabeth Brundage’s novel All Things Cease to Appear (a better title), the co-directors craft a surprisingly unusual ghost story that lingers.
While there are the requisite number of jump scares and red-herring narrative fake-outs, Berman and Pulcini – who are odd fits in the first place, given their decidedly non-genre filmography – zig where you expect them to zag. It helps immensely, too, that they stack their supporting cast with aces in the hole (F. Murray Abraham, Rhea Seehorn, James Urbaniak and even the long-lost Karen Allen!) and give Seyfried the opportunity to dig deep into the nervous-wife character that we’ve seen squandered too many times before.
Here’s hoping that Seyfried finds her next nightmare home soon.
Things Heard & Seen is available to stream on Netflix starting April 29.
In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, recommended works will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.