Things Heard and Seen Parent Guide
This gothic horror story manages to be tense, mysterious, and unsettling.
Parent Movie Review
When her husband, George (James Norton) finishes his PhD and finds work upstate, Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) reluctantly leaves her job as a professional art restorer and packs up with their daughter Franny (Ana Sophia Heger) to move out of Manhattan. Although the handsome farmhouse they move into has charm, it also seems to come with a few ghosts… ghosts who seem fixated on Catherine and Franny. While Catherine tries to hunt down the truth about the house’s previous (and potentially current) deceased residents, George finds himself in trouble as the secrets of his past catch up with him…
I love a good ghost story. I think entirely too many modern horror films try to shy away from a classic, Gothic, supernatural horror story in favor of an 80s-style slasher gore-fest. Now, I’m not saying the latter flicks can’t be fun, but for good atmospheric horror, it’s hard to beat the oppressive miasma of a good haunting. The possibilities are so much broader when death stops being an obstacle to the scares on screen.
Not that Things Heard and Seen does it perfectly. I think the specific focus on some of spiritualist Emanuel Swedenborg’s work sucks out some of the fun that would have resulted had the supernatural elements been more mysterious. The plot is definitely paint-by-the-numbers in some places, especially when it comes to George’s character. James Norton is doing a great job of being odious, but his character lacks any distinctiveness. I feel like I’ve seen this guy in a lot of other horror movies, and it usually takes all of five minutes until I’m rooting for a grisly death.
As the TV-MA rating should indicate, Things Heard and Seen is not what you’d describe as wholesome family entertainment. Apart from the content listed below, there are a few issues that make this film a poor choice for some audiences. Catherine struggles with bulimia, and those struggles are graphically shown on screen. I’m not saying this is grossly inappropriate, but if you have a history of eating disorders, these scenes may prove upsetting. Throw in an axe murder and a whole bunch of profanity and this isn’t a movie for sensitive viewers of any age.
In spite of the areas I found disappointing or lazy, there were enough highlights that I think I can cautiously recommend this film to adult genre fans. Good Gothic horror is hard to come by these days, and I certainly welcome new entries – even if they aren’t perfect. Things Heard and Seen manages to be tense, mysterious, and unsettling, and that’s good enough for me. At least, in broad daylight. These things are always a little less fun when the sun goes down and you hear strange noises in the dark…Directed by Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini. Starring Amanda Seyfried, James Norton. Running time: 119 minutes. Theatrical release April 29, 2021. Updated April 29, 2021
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Things Heard and Seen
Rating & Content Info
Why is Things Heard and Seen rated TV-MA? Things Heard and Seen is rated TV-MA by the MPAA
Violence: There are references to extreme physical abuse against children and suicide. There are depictions of both psychological and physical domestic abuse. An individual is drowned off-screen. A character is severely injured in a car wreck deliberately caused by another person. One character is killed bloodily with an axe. There is also a scene depicting a strange, quasi-fetal…thing?
Sexual Content: Several characters are seen from the shoulders up in the shower. One individual is depicted masturbating without nudity. There are depictions of adultery with no graphic sexual content. There is one scene depicting male posterior nudity. There are also some scenes which insinuate sexual harassment or violence.
Profanity: There are 26 sexual expletives, a pair of scatological curses, and infrequent use of mild profanities and terms of deity. There are a few instances of homophobic language.
Alcohol / Drug Use: People drink in social situations. Adult characters are seen smoking both marijuana and tobacco.
Page last updated April 29, 2021
Things Heard and Seen Parents' Guide
If you or a loved one suffers from disordered eating, Eating Disorder Hope offers a list of resources, including other foundations and non-profits.
Emanuel Swedenborg was a real person whose beliefs are touched on in the movie. For more information about his philosophy, you can check out the Swedenborg Foundation.
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This film is an adaptation of Elizabeth Brundage’s novel All Things Cease to Appear. Neil Gaiman’s Coraline or The Ocean at the End of the Lane are good options for those who want the spooky and surreal. Stephen King is another good choice, particularly novels like The Shining or Bag of Bones. Readers may also enjoy Henry James classic Gothic horror novel The Turn of the Screw (and likely not the awful 2020 film adaptation, The Turning).
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A good creepy option for younger or teenaged viewers is Coraline, adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name. Teens might also enjoy Gretel and Hansel. Older audiences might enjoy films like The Lodge, The Shining, Midsommar, or Call. If you just want the ominous atmosphere and less of the supernatural horror, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a very surreal take on remote farmhouses.