In the Netflix horror movie, Things Heard & Seen, director duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini approach the common tropes of the two genres with some independent freedom. And the result is a dark and fascinating drama, feminist and philosophical at its core.
Attention spoilers on the movie In Things Heard & Seen
The ending of Things Heard & Seen proves that this is a relationship drama disguised as a horror movie. The rise of religious themes in Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s Things Heard & Seen only amplifies this idea as the movie progresses.
Based on a famous book, Things Heard & Seen follows a young married couple, Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) and George (James Norton), who moves to a small town so that George can take a professorship at the local university. As they move into their new home, Catherine quickly realizes that the house is haunted. But the more she learns about spirits, the more her marriage begins to unravel. Catherine worries that her husband may not be the man she thought he was from the start.
The spirits that haunt their house turns out to be former residents of the house, condemned to horrific deaths by their husbands. Little did Catherine know that the spirits of these vengeful husbands also linger in their house and eventually possess George. At the end of Things Heard & Seen, he embarks on a murderous madness that tragically ends with the murder of Catherine with an ax. While it is not known whether George ended up getting away with the murders of these characters, the final shot of Things Heard & Seen indicates his actions doomed him to hell.
What happened to Ella?
Almost as soon as Catherine and George move into the house, Catherine and her young daughter Franny begin to have visions of a ghost woman. As these visions are usually accompanied by frightening events, such as flickering lights, the spirit is first presented to the audience as a threat. But as Catherine reveals to Floyd, George’s colleague, she comes to see this presentation as a comfort.
The woman is ultimately revealed to be Ella Vayle, the late mother of the boys Catherine hired to take care of their house. Ella’s husband lost his mind one day, slaughtering all their cows and killing himself and his wife in a murder-suicide. Ella’s mind was tied to the house, as her destiny was to protect Catherine. The women of the house have always been cursed to meet a horrible end. The first wife was there for Ella when her husband murdered her. So she vowed to return the favor by protecting Catherine, watching over her as soon as George started showing her true face.
How are women connected?
Physically, each of the wives of Things Heard & Seen is connected by an old ring that was unwittingly passed on to them. But their connection is also on a spiritual level. Unbeknownst to Catherine, the women who lived in her house are known to be cursed. Catherine finds an old bible dating from the 18th century which traces the deaths of the families of the former owners. She notes that the death of the wives was deemed cursed by their husbands. This is because they followed the teachings of Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, who claimed to have the ability to converse with spirits.
While Catherine doesn’t know Swedenborg until she moves into her new home, Things Heard & Seen makes a point of mentioning that she is a firm believer in ghosts, despite her husband’s teasing. Each of the women who have resided in the house is sweet spirits broken by the cruelty of their husbands. While none of the women in the ghost story have yet survived the curse, the faith of their predecessors allows them not to be alone when they die.
Why did George kill Catherine?
To learn more about Ella’s spirit, Catherine hosts a spiritualism session to try to communicate with her. During this event, she learns that Ella is not the only spirit in the house, and it is implied that the second spirit is malicious. The ghost of Ella’s husband also haunts the house, which is evident when George is seen imitating some of his actions.
George’s manipulative ways are revealed throughout Things Heard & Seen, as he cheats, lies, and turns on Catherine. The dark side of her personality is amplified by the influence of Ella’s husband’s ghost. Just as the women of the household are doomed for horrible ends, the men are destined to reveal their cruel nature. If George may have ended up revealing his true nature to Catherine at some point during their marriage, it was the influence of the evil spirits of the house that drove him to murder.
The Importance of Faith in Things Heard & Seen
Religion is an overt theme in Things Heard & Seen and appears throughout the movie in two distinct ways – Swedenborg is mentioned several times, as well as George Inness’s painting, “Valley of the Shadow of Death”. The appearance of these two elements foreshadows the climax and end of the Netflix movie. The movie begins with a quote from Swedenborg that sets the tone: “I can state that the things that are in the sky are more real than those that are in the world”. This quote refers to the lingering spirits of the wives in Catherine and George’s home, as the ghosts of the wives who came before her are very much present in Catherine’s life. Catherine saw Swedenborg’s beliefs by communing with the women who came before her.