I’ll say this a lot for “Things Heard & Seen”: it completely lives as much as its identify. If, out of curiosity or inertia, you let your Netflix algorithm have its manner for 2 hours, you’ll undoubtedly hear and see some issues, although you’ll have bother afterward remembering simply what these issues have been.
The film, directed by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, relies on a novel by Elizabeth Brundage referred to as “All Things Cease to Appear,” which is a extra intriguing title, although maybe not as cinematic. In any case, the particular person doing many of the seeing and listening to is Catherine Claire (Amanda Seyfried), who has left New York City and moved into an outdated farmhouse within the Hudson Valley together with her husband, George (James Norton), and their younger daughter, Franny (Ana Sophia Heger).
What occurs up there could be taken as a cautionary story for many who fled the town in the course of the pandemic, or as an invite to schadenfreude for many who didn’t. Not that “Things Heard & Seen” insists on relevance. It takes place in 1980, and as in lots of trendy thrillers, the interval setting appears primarily to be a matter of know-how. Back then, there have been no Google picture searches, no climate apps and no Zillow listings. It was time to be a ghost.
And, apparently, a nasty time to be married to a professor of artwork historical past at a small liberal-arts faculty. George is a smug nugget of preppy pretension who has lately accomplished a dissertation on the painters of the Hudson River School. That lands him a gig at Saginaw College, and Catherine leaves behind her profession as an artwork restorer to observe him there.
The division chair (F. Murray Abraham) is a devotee of the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th-century Swedish mystic a lot admired by 19th-century American intellectuals. Among his followers was the panorama painter George Inness, a topic of George Claire’s analysis.
These references add an overlay of cultural seriousness to an unsuspenseful and secondhand psychological haunted-house thriller. Shortly after their arrival, Catherine begins, effectively, listening to and seeing issues. An outdated Bible seems on a shelf. The piano begins enjoying itself. Franny’s night time gentle behaves surprisingly, and a spectral girl lurks within the shadows of her room. There’s additionally the odor of automotive exhaust in the course of the night time.
The home, it seems, had beforehand been the scene of marital unhappiness and attainable homicide, each within the 1800s and extra lately. As George reveals himself to be a cheater, a gaslighter and an all-around sociopath, it seems to be as if the Claires could be headed in that route, too.
Which ought to be extra fascinating than it’s. As ought to the college-town setting, which is a hive of badly stored secrets and techniques and barely managed lust, with a inhabitants that features some very superb character actors (Rhea Seehorn, James Urbaniak and Karen Allen along with Abraham). There are additionally two engaging targets for the Claires’ roving eyes: Alex Neustaedter, as a hunky handyman, and Natalia Dyer, as a Cornell scholar taking a go away of absence to coach horses.
But “Things Heard & Seen” is lower than the sum of its probably intriguing components. Rather than interweaving home drama, supernatural mumbo-jumbo and campus naughtiness, Pulcini and Berman lurch from one scene to the subsequent, squandering scares and undermining the momentum of the story. There ought to be extra to see right here.
Things Heard & Seen
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 59 minutes. Watch on Netflix.