Things Heard & Seen (15, 121 minutes)
As titles go, (and the novel it’s based on: All Things Cease to Appear isn’t much better) this feels like a literal translation of something badly dubbed and rush released to the eastern European market, but don’t be put off, like I almost was. There are worse ways to spend a couple of hours.
Yes it’s cliched and blatantly derivative – young family move to small town America, buy an early 19th century house with a long, grisly history (although the local historical society seem pretty am ambivalent about it) and cute little girl starts saying weird stuff.
If that all sounds familiar, it’s because the real spirit haunting this film is the ghostly presence of the plethora of gloom-laden paranormal films that have gone before it from The Shining to The Others and beyond.
That said, the ghost story is a bit of a red herring and it’s in the sub plot where the real depth rests in the screenplay.
This family is not all it seems. Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) obviously has an eating disorder and her art teacher husband George (James Norton) is far from the nice guy he first appears to be.
The haunted house is a metaphor for the secrets below the surface in this couple’s relationship and once that sinks in, Things Heard & Seen becomes more than just another cynical exercise in audience baiting.
A supporting cast that includes Oscar winner F Murray Abraham, Karen Allen and Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer keep proceedings on the right track. Meanwhile, Norton, best known for playing a detective vicar in the ITV series Grantchester, makes the most of a character who as the film progresses, reveals himself to have absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever as he moves from self centred manipulative creep to something altogether more menacing.
But like so many stories of this ilk, it’s the ending that ultimately collapses this haunted house of cards, leaving one asking: “Is that it then?”
Things Heard & Seen is available to stream now on Netflix