“Things Heard & Seen” is a Gothic horror film that is also a portrait of a failing marriage. It works better as the latter than the former, but by the end, these two seemingly disparate types of films come together in a surprising and powerful way. It’s also the first thriller from Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, a husband-and-wife team whose diverse filmography as a writing/directing team includes the brilliant “American Splendor” and the mediocre comedy “The Nanny Diaries.” Although the setting can seem familiar—a creaky, old house with a dark history where things go bump in the night—Berman and Pulcini are going for a more low-key approach. IMDB
We start with a trick, one of many we’ll discover as the story progresses. In the winter of 1980, a man approaches a desolate wooden farmhouse. When he pulls into the garage, he sees something dripping from the ceiling above onto his windshield, which he immediately recognizes as blood. He runs inside to discover his young daughter alone in the living room playing. Something terrible has occurred, but to whom and for what reason?
Return to the previous spring, when George Claire (James Norton) and his wife Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) are celebrating the birthday of their daughter Franny at their Manhattan apartment. They seem to be a happy couple with a bright future ahead of them: he recently accepted a position as an assistant art professor at a small liberal arts college in upstate New York. She’s a seasoned art restorer who has persuaded herself to embark on a new adventure in a new place. However, a fellow mom remarking on Catherine’s weight loss, followed by Catherine taking a single piece of cake and then puking it up in the shower, is an early sign of domestic strife.