“Things Heard and Seen” in a Tepid Horror

Much as it bodes well to see Amanda Seyfried in a new movie soon after her Oscar run, herein lies the gamble. Anything that follows her career-defining turn in Mank is bound to pale in comparison. And that’s exactly what happens here. Things Seen and Heard marks her return to the horror genre after 2009’s Jennifer’s Body and 2011’s Red Riding Hood. They weren’t exactly classics, but at least they were campy.

The film follows Catherine Clare, a Manhattan art restorer who moves to a remote New York suburb when her husband, George (James Norton), lands a teaching stint in a small college. At first, she struggles to make her new abode livable, especially for her daughter Franny. Inevitably, the adjustment pains catch up. Those pains increase tenfold when the deep dark secrets of her new home begin to unshroud, even more when she discovers its fiendish connection to her crumbling marriage.

Set in 1980, but barely feels like it, the film reminds us that there are horrors in life far ghastlier than the unseen. Put more bluntly, why fear ghosts when you live with a volatile spouse? But even under that premise, the scares just aren’t enough. Worse, the film tries to compensate by throwing in every imaginable horror movie trope (Shining and Amityville, anyone?) to keep horror fans hooked. It only muddles the message, until that very convoluted ending.

Adapted from Elizabeth Brundage’s 2016 novel All things Cease to Appear, this Netflix outing was written and directed by husband-and-wife team Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pucini. They haven’t really left a mark after their 2003 sleeper hit American Splendor. This isn’t exactly a return to form.

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