I would call this a lot for “Things Heard and Seen”: it lives up to its name in its entirety. If, out of curiosity or inertia, you make your Netflix algorithm your way for two hours, you will definitely hear and see some things, although later you may have trouble remembering what those things were.
The film, directed by Robert Pulcini and Sherry Springer Burman, is based on a novel called Elizabeth Brundage “Everything stops appearing,” Which is a more intriguing title, though not cinematic form. In any case, the person to see and hear is Catherine Claire (Amanda Seyfried), who has moved to an old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley with her husband George (James Norton), and her youth, leaving New York City. Daughter, Franny (Ana Sophia Hager).
What happens is that schadenfreude can be taken as a tale of caution for those who fled the city during the epidemic, or for those who did not leave. It is not that “Things Heard and Scene” emphasizes relevance. It takes place in 1980, and as in many modern thrillers, the founding of the period seems primarily a matter of technology. Subsequently, there was no Google image search, no weather apps and no Zillow listings. It was a good time to be a ghost.
And, obviously, a bad time to marry a professor of art history in a small liberal-arts college. George is the smog of the Preppy Preparation, having recently completed a dissertation on the painters of the Hudson River School. He lands her a gig at Saginaw College, and Catherine leaves her career behind to follow him as an art.
The department chair (F. Morena Abraham) is a devotee of the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th-century Swedish mystic who is greatly admired by 19th-century American intellectuals. Among his followers were landscape painters George innes, The subject of George Claire’s research.
These references include an immaculate and a cover for cultural seriousness for a second psychological haunted-house thriller. Shortly after her arrival, Catherine begins, well, listening and watching things. An old Bible appears on a shelf. The piano starts playing on its own. Franny’s night light behaves strangely, and a spectral woman lurks in the shadows of her room. There is also the smell of the exhaust of the car in the middle of the night.
The house, it turns out, was previously the scene of marital unhappiness and possible murder, both in the 1800s and more recently. As George reveals himself to be a deceiver, a gaslighter, and an omnipotent sopopath, it seems as if Claires can also lead in that direction.
Which should be more interesting than this. As in the college-town setting, which is a hive of badly kept secrets and barely controlled lust with a population that includes some of the very best character actors (Rhea Sirhorn, James Urbaniec, and Abraham Karen Allen). Claires also has two eye-catching targets for her weeping eyes: Alex Neustader, a hunter Hahnemann, and Natalia Dyer as a Cornell student taking a leave of absence to train horses.
But “Things Heard and Scene” is less than the sum of its potentially intriguing parts. Domestic drama, supernatural mumbo-jumbo and campus neckness, to speed and intimidate the story, rather than moving Pulakni and Burman Lurch from one scene to another. There should be more to see here.
Hear and see things
Not rated. Running Time: 1 hour 59 minutes. Watch on Netflix.