Hollywood thrillers during which refined, engaging metropolis people transfer to creaky previous nation houses and expertise scary issues are a dime a dozen. Much less frequent is when these Hollywood thrillers are primarily based on the theology of 18th-century Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg.
However right here we’re — a Swedenborgian thriller — and thus it’s not a nasty thought to learn up a bit on the person, by which we imply to Google him, earlier than diving into “Things Heard & Seen,” a well-cast and infrequently entertaining however campy and generally apparent thriller starring Amanda Seyfried and James Norton.
What you’ll study is that Swedenborg believed (amongst different issues) that loss of life was only a continuation of life — and that individuals lived on, within the non secular world, previous the expiration of their bodily physique. For the movie’s functions, we’ll boil it down for you: Ghosts!
In truth the movie, primarily based on the novel “All Issues Stop to Seem” by Elizabeth Brundage, begins with a Swedenborg quote: “Issues which might be in heaven are extra actual than issues which might be on the earth.” So even for those who’ve skipped your theology homework (tsk tsk), this could provide you with a warning to a spectral affect within the story — possibly even a seance or two.
We start within the winter of 1980, when a perturbed-looking George Claire (Norton) drives up a snowy highway to his remoted house. Instantly, it’s apparent one thing horrible has occurred.
Flashback to the spring earlier than, in a Manhattan condominium. George and spouse Catherine (Seyfried) are celebrating the fourth birthday of their daughter, Franny. George — good-looking and chiseled, with the type of tousled hair that appears breezy however you already know he works on it — has an announcement to make: Not solely has he accomplished his Ph.D in artwork historical past, however he’s discovered a instructing job upstate. “Oh, at Bard?” asks a (snobby) pal. No, he replies, at a a spot referred to as Saginaw.
No person is impressed, however Catherine, regardless of having no want to depart her coveted job as an artwork restorer, feels the necessity to help her husband. For one factor, she tells a pal, they want the cash — his rich mother and father have lastly reduce him off. The pal warns Catherine she’s giving up quite a bit to go dwell in a spot full of “wealthy horsey weekenders and full-time rednecks.”
However transfer they do, to lovely Hudson Valley (writer-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini draw out each the allure and the isolation of the place) and their chosen city, which is ominously referred to as … Chosen. (Sure issues are unabashedly telegraphed on this movie. Then once more, generally they’re pink herrings. Possibly? Why is Catherine bulimic, for instance?)
The home George has discovered, on an previous dairy farm, is big and creaky and wishes work, however Catherine launches into the job. Quickly, nonetheless, it turns into clear the household just isn’t totally alone. As occurs in haunted home films, there are unusual noises and unusual voices and dodgy electrical energy. There are additionally historic hints sprinkled via the house, suggesting previous trauma.
Catherine is rather more attuned to those than George, who’s spending most of his time attempting to curry favor with colleagues in his artwork historical past division, together with the chairman, Floyd DeBeers, who has a fascination not solely with Swedenborg however his affect on distinguished panorama painter George Inness (DeBeers is performed by a deliciously august F. Murray Abraham.)ADVERTISEMENT
Catherine additionally develops an affection for 2 brothers, Eddy and Cole, who dwell subsequent door and supply to do odd jobs. As we suspect early on, there’s extra to those brothers and their connection to the house than meets the attention.
What’s most fascinating, although, just isn’t all of the generally ridiculous plot twists and hints of darkish motives and impending doom. It’s the connection between Catherine and George, who could not know one another in addition to they thought. Effectively … they positively don’t. Seyfried specifically is a grounding presence and a splendidly empathetic performer. As for Norton, he does a pleasant job preserving us questioning (for a bit) whether or not he’s merely a handsome social striver with designs on greater than his expertise deserves, or one thing worse. Additionally, this British heartthrob nails the American tutorial vibe.
All of it comes hurtling towards a strenuous conclusion, and you’ll wager these aforementioned ghosts get their second, too. However that’s not essentially a nasty factor. If you wish to know why, you might need to ask Emanuel Swedenborg.
“Issues Heard & Seen,” a Netflix launch, is unrated by the Movement Image Affiliation of America. Operating time: 119 minutes. Two stars out of 4.