Netflix, being the ever-so-prolific media company that it is, has returned with its newest release, “Things Seen and Heard,” a Gothic horror movie with underlying themes of religion. While the movie has a solid foundation, its half-hearted development and ending are lackluster and uninteresting, making the film exceedingly hard to watch as it drags on for 2+ hours.
For the most part, the movie centers around Catherine Claire and her ever-increasingly rocky relationship with her husband, George, as they move to a small town. During that period of time, like most horror movies, she starts seeing traces of spiritual power. Rather than leaving the matter of the spiritual world’s existence unattended, the movie takes to explain the world’s paranormal behaviour through famous theologian Emanual Swedenborg’s ideas of heaven, hell, and the spiritual world. This use of Gothic themes forces the production team to deeply consider what kind of imagery would fit their aesthetic. Luckily, the production crew didn’t seem to have much of a problem with that. The film does a good job picking out vast landscape shots alongside eerie and ominous paintings that could be heavily associated with religion and the supernatural. These images all help demonstrate the lack of power our main characters have against the natural forces of the world.
The plot and its development, however, only serve to disappoint. Namely, the biggest problems it suffers from are pacing and development, especially regarding the climax of the movie. Within the film, we find out alongside Catherine that the house is inhabited by two ghosts: one evil and one good. The good spirit works with Catherine in an effort to vanquish and exorcise the evil spirit, who is influencing George. (Spoiler Warning Ahead:) The movie eventually progresses to establish George as the main antagonist as he attempts to get away with not one, but two murders. The climax occurs as he is provoked into killing Catherine.
However, the movie fails to establish George as powerful enough of a threat. Though supposedly a big douchebag and hypocrite, he is more pathetic than disgusting. Rather than fearing him and for Catherine’s well-being during her murder, he seems more pawn-like and therefore less “dangerous.” Though George successfully murders three people throughout the course of the movie, he still appears about as intimidating as a wilted piece of bok choy. Two of his kills are off-screen, and he cries and whines so much while he murders his wife that it almost feels like he’s the one dying. Simply put, he’s just not that frightening. Though this may help demonstrate his complexity as a character, by extension, it also eliminates the feeling of satisfaction and relief when he finally gets killed and sent to Hell—it evokes more of a feeling of disappointment that has the audience thinking, “Why couldn’t this be done earlier?”
As the horror genre continues to evolve and expand, companies and screenwriters are continuously coming up with more and more innovative ways to spook their audience—it almost feels like Hollywood is trying to pull off some sort of Monsters Inc. operation with the way they attempt to outscare the general public with their newest fright. With the heightened focus on shock value, horror movies often forget to establish deeper themes or satisfying resolutions. As a result, this movie fails not because of Netflix’s production alone, but rather the mentality that people have begun to approach horror movies with. Netflix should start thinking about how the things audiences want to see and hear in horror movies may not just be fake-deep expositions and shock value scares…
“Things Seen and Heard” receives a 2/5 for its poor character development, predictability, and overall lackluster plot.