THINGS HEARD AND SEEN. (2021) A NETFLIX HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THINGS HEARD AND SEEN. (2021) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘ALL THINGS CEASE TO APPEAR,’ BY ELIZABETH BRUNDAGE. DIRECTED BY SHARI SPRINGER BERMAN AND ROBERT PULCINI.

STARRING AMANDA ‘MEAN GIRLS’ SEYFRIED, JAMES NORTON, RHEA SEEHORN, KAREN ALLEN AND F. MURRAY ABRAHAM.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I had two things to say about this movie and a quick glance on Wikipedia informs me that they have both been said before. Well, ain’t that a kick in the head? I’m going to say them anyway, because they’re the two things that actually strike me most about the film.

Firstly, this movie would probably have worked much better without the supernatural element, because the ghost story is woefully weak and the story about the car-crash marriage is strong and could have been even stronger if it wasn’t trying to squash in a ghost story as well.

Secondly, the movie is very similar to Robert Zemeckis’s excellent oeuvre, WHAT LIES BENEATH, from 2000, one of my favourite films of all time. Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer absolutely smash it as the cheating, charming gaslighting research scientist/college professor and his wife, who’s being haunted by the ghost of someone intimately known to her husband, if you catch my drift.

The wife is dead-set on bringing the mystery to light. When Michelle PFeiffer says to Harrison Ford: ‘That girl must be brought up,’ the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The husband in WHAT LIES BENEATH is unwilling for his ghastly-slash-ghostly secrets to come under scrutiny, because of the obviously negative repercussions for himself and his nice cosy set-up and career success.

So, he decides to get rid of the one person who knows his secret and is standing in the way of his keeping hold of the reins of his lovely, well-respected rich scientist life. And if that one person in his way can also be shown to be a tiny bit unstable and have a history of seeing things that aren’t there, well, so much the better for Mr. Professor…

THINGS HEARD AND SEEN has a very similar plot and is a very similar film, although the 2000 movie does the ghost story better. It’s 1979. Catherine and George Claire move with their little daughter Franny from their Manhattan apartment to a huge old farm in upstate New York. George, an art professor, is taking up a position in the college there and he’s extremely happy with his promotion.

Their lovely new house has a ‘troubled history.’ You know what that means. Folks died horribly there in the past, lol, and their spirits are not at rest. Not that there’s anything to ‘lol’ about in people dying horribly, haha. Ooops, I did it again…

Anyway, George is confident, handsome, ambitious, superior, smug, and a lying, cheating bastard to boot. He can- and does- charm the knickers off his female students, who all think that Professor Claire is just the swoonsomest swooner that ever swooned, snigger. They think he’s ‘the most,’ which folks may or may not have continued saying into the ‘80s, I just don’t know.

Catherine, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be George’s biggest fan, for some reason. She’s jumpy, edgy, tearful, snappy and struggles with bulimia. She doesn’t seem to have a passion in life the way George is passionate about art. As she and George seem to have gotten married and pregnant straight out of school, maybe she hasn’t had a chance to find out what her true passion in life is yet, besides, of course, her child.

Added to this, she’s ‘seeing things’ around the house, shadows, people, ghosts and suchlike, but she can’t tell George about it because he’s grossly insensitive to her ‘vibes,’ and says he doesn’t want her ruining the new house on everyone by saying it’s haunted. The ghost story really needed to be sharper and more clear-cut, rather than a bit fuzzy and confusing the way it is.

George quickly finds himself a nice bit of stuff to keep him warm on the winter nights, because he’s not getting any nookie at home, what with Franny being in their bed nearly every night.

Catherine is stuck at home with the baby twenty-four-seven, with no-one to talk to but the two young lads who come to do jobs around the place. Even when the Claires get invited out to parties as a couple, George turns into a big, weed-smoking, drunk-driving jerk, so maybe they’d be better off staying at home.

Then comes the revelation that George has committed an illegal act to get the cushy position he’s in now at Saginaw College. It wasn’t hard to guess what happened in the plot from here, but there’s at least one thing in the last twenty minutes of the film that will probably surprise you, so do watch it to the end, even if you think you’ve already guessed the ending.

I liked F. Murray Abraham (SCARFACE, AMADEUS) as the cuddly and genial head of the college’s art history department, Floyd DeBeers- great name!- though I knew exactly what was going to happen to him the minute he said that he was going to have to inform the college of George’s pretty major deliberate act of deception. That isn’t the only thing that George has told lies about, either, so stay tuned.

Karen Allen, a classy lassy probably better known as Indiana Jones’s love interest, Marion Ravenwood, in the action-adventure films RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008), has a small role in the film as a new acquaintance of the Claires’. There’s that Harrison Ford connection again! 

As I’ve said, the ghost story is as weak as piss, excuse my language, but the toxic marriage story is gripping, and could have been even gripping-er, which isn’t a word at all, if they’d just concentrated on that and nowt else. WHAT LIES BENEATH did it first and also did it better, but THINGS HEARD AND SEEN is worth a watch too, if only for comparative purposes.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

MEAN GIRLS. (2004) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MEAN GIRLS. (2004) DIRECTED BY MARK WATERS. PRODUCED BY LORNE MICHAELS. BASED ON THE 2002 SELF-HELP BOOK, QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES BY ROSALIND. SCREENPLAY BY TINA FEY.

STARRING LINDSEY LOHAN, TINA FEY, RACHEL MCADAMS, LACEY CHABERT, AMANDA SEYFRIED, LIZZY CAPLAN, DANIEL FRANZESE, JONATHAN BENNETT, RAJIV SURENDRA, TIM MEADOWS AND AMY POEHLER.  

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Gretchen, stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen!’

I actually bought the non-fiction self-help book on which this cult film is based for my own daughter when she was in secondary school, which is what we Irish call high school.

QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES is a great book about the cliques amongst girls in high school, the bitching and bullying they can engender and the terrible damage they can do to the fragile psyches of young girls.

It’s an American book dealing specifically with American teenage girls and American schools, so not everything in it applied to us Irish, but it was still an interesting read. Girls are girls the world over, right?

The film became a cult phenomenon so big words can’t really do it justice. It’s like THE CRAFT without the Ouija boards. It’s Mariah Carey’s favourite film. It’s been the subject of tweets from the Whitehouse. People quote from it all the time.

Even I was quoting from it without realising it, talking about ‘making fetch happen’ while being unaware that this brilliantly lame-o expression came from this massively well-known, super-funny and wickedly bitchy teen comedy.

Here’s the 411, y’all. The naturally beautiful Lindsay Lohan plays Cady Heron, a teenage girl going to school for the very first time in her life. Prior to now, she’s been living in Africa with her botanist parents and being home-schooled, so attending an American high school for the first time ever is a massive culture shock for poor Cady.

She initially befriends weird goth girl Janis Ian and the ‘almost too gay to function’ Damien Leigh, a flamboyant, music-loving Gay Best Friend type. Cady is glad to have some nice friendly people to talk to.

They explain the baffling hierarchy of school cliques to her, and warn her to steer clear of ‘the Plastics,’ a select trio of pretty and popular girls to whom appearances are everything and ‘loyalty’ is a thing presumably only ever mentioned in tandem with the word ‘card…’ Good one, huh? That’s my own, lol, it’s not a movie quote, don’t steal it now!

The Plastics give the word ‘shallow’ a whole new meaning. They think of nothing but their looks and live their lives by a Bible of ridiculous rules, like you must wear pink on Wednesdays and you can only put your hair in a ponytail once a week, or you can’t sit with them to eat lunch in the school canteen.

When school Queen Bee and leader of the Plastics, Regina George, takes a surprising interest in Cady, however, Janis, who’s clearly been bullied by Regina before, urges Cady to reciprocate.

If they have someone ‘on the inside,’ Janis reckons, they can take down the Plastics and revenge themselves on Regina, Gretchen and Karen for previous slights. But they’ve reckoned without the old adage, ‘oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive…’

Firstly, the kids don’t reckon on Cady falling head-over-heels in love with the uber-bitchy Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels. (Regina mightn’t want him, but you can bet your bottom dollar she won’t want Cady to have him either. Shut up!)

Neither do they reckon on Cady coming to like Regina and wanting to properly be her friend, or on Cady practically re-making herself in Regina’s image and becoming as shiny and hard as any darned Plastic. And they certainly don’t reckon on the infamous ‘Burn Book’ and the trouble and hurt it can cause to their fellow students. And teachers…

Tina Fey is terrific as Miss Norbury, the teacher who tries to explain to the girls that by constantly dissing each other and calling each other sluts and whores, they’re only making it easier for men to do the same. She’s so right.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love men, but if women came together in a tight-knit community and formed a united front against men’s nonsense- you know the kind of nonsense I mean; sexual harassment, sexual violence, grooming of minors, sex trafficking, etc.- then maybe men wouldn’t get away with as much stuff. They might even think twice before they attempt the stuff, which would be bloody wonderful.

Excuse me if I’m being unusually feminist. I’ve spent the Bank Holiday weekend watching SURVIVING R. KELLY and JEFFREY EPSTEIN: FILTHY RICH on Netflix, and I’m still queasy in my stomach at the thought of what rich and powerful men are allowed to get away with just because of that money and power. They’re able to buy a whole network of enablers and facilitators who can help them to keep the whole circus going and all the juggling balls in the air, among other things.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Miss Norbury. She’s good for a few drugs too, if that’s your fancy, lol. I really like Tim Meadows as Principal Ron Duvall, who fancies Miss Norbury (that’s grool, right?) but feels all at sea when it comes to dealing with the nitty-gritty of the teenage female psyche. ‘I can’t help it if I have a heavy flow…!’

The Asian mathlete rapper dude, Kevin Gnapoor, is a freaking legend, and I love Amy Poehler (does she remind anyone else of Beverly D’Angelo?) as Regina’s wildly delusional mom, who tries waaaay too hard to be ‘down with the kids.’ ‘Can I get you kids anything? A drink? A condom? Let me know…!’

You may recognise Cady’s father as the actor Neil Flynn, by the way. He played the Janitor in SCRUBS and the dad in comedy series THE MIDDLE, which was kind of a less funny version of MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE.

Anyway, MEAN GIRLS is a film that should probably be shown anywhere teenage girls (and boys?) are being educated together. It’s witty, smart, funny and full of iconic, much-memed moments, but there’s a bit of a bite under all the froth. Watch out for it.

   AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: