A young family uproot to a 19th century farmhouse in upstate New York after the husband lands a coveted academic position. The wife puts her artistic dreams on hold to support him and look after their young daughter – and perhaps the two young men who introduce themselves days after their arrival are the perfect caretakers their house and their child need. But power plays and God complexes at the university, and bumps in the night in the house no one talks about, soon rear their head.

Things Heard and Seen uses every trick in the book to hint that George (James Norton) and Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) have walked straight into a trap before exacerbating the existing haunted house tropes with rot from inside the marriage. Norton’s pitch perfect American accent cannot hide the weakness written into his character development, but he switches between believably doting husband and newly untouchable genius – with the wreckage it leaves behind – seamlessly, highlighting the mundanity of such villains.

The storytelling here is stronger in more nuanced spaces. Catherine’s bulimia, tastefully yet honestly portrayed, physicalises her isolation and lack of control – with a less sensitive touch the illness could come across as gratuitous, but Seyfried and writer-director duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini use the weighty, unsensationalised portrayal to emphasise everyday destructions. The restless spirits have their work cut out for them.

The supporting cast is too large for dramatic focus, but a two-hour run time allows the town to become known to George, Catherine, and viewers before the inevitable showdown.

Things Heard and Seen loses itself in its final act, as too many skeletons in closets lead to an overblown climax and too-neat a conclusion. That said, its chilling central turns and key character surprises in the film’s first two-thirds ensure it remains engaging, even thrilling, throughout.



CAST: Amanda Seyfried, James Norton, Alex Neustaedter, Natalia Dyer

DIRECTORS: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

WRITERS: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

SYNOPSIS: When George and Catherine move to an upstate New York house, they are not prepared for the house’s dark past – or the cracks in their own marriage.