Set in the 1980s, “Things Heard and Seen” is about a woman named Catherine Clare (Amanda Seyfried) who moves to the Hudson Valley after her husband (James Norton) starts a new job as an art history teacher, reluctantly becoming a stay-at-home mom on an old dairy farm after a life in Manhattan. As is the case with most horror films where someone moves to the country, Catherine starts to suspect there is a sinister presence in her new home, and something seriously wrong with her marriage. If you have read Brundage’s book, you’ll know the reveal is that there’s nothing supernatural happening at all, so the horror-thriller quickly goes the route of true crime.
Unfortunately, this means that “Thing Heard and Seen” then pivots into a paint-by-numbers true crime film, and the horror set up in the first three-fourths of the movie is abandoned for a drama. It’s a shame, because there is an effective, lingering sense of unease enveloping the entire movie and a handful of truly spooky moments, but it isn’t enough to save the final product.
All of the actors are committing to their characters and it never feels like anyone is phoning it in, but condensing Brundage’s novel to a feature runtime doesn’t allow the film to breathe, and much of the creeping dread found in the book is abandoned … so when the even bigger twist is revealed, it feels completely unearned. Honestly, this is one of the few instances where a mini-series adaptation would have been preferable to a film, if only so the tension had more time to build. All of the elements are there to tell a truly great thriller, it just didn’t come together in the end.