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