The next big horror release from Netflix will be Things Heard & Seen on April 29, 2021. The movie is an adaptation of the 2016 novel All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage. It stars Amanda Seyfried as Catherine Clare, a woman who is axe-murdered in 1979.
In a flashback to a year before the murder, Catherine and her husband George (played by James Norton) purchase their dream home in small-town New York and move in with their daughter Franny. They love the house but learn from locals it has a reputation for being cursed. George teaches at a local college, and Catherine is an artist from New York City who is now dedicated to fixing up their new home. She hires the orphaned boys of the home’s previous owners to help her, though George suspects they resent the couple for buying their childhood home. The plot unfolds to tell the story of Catherine’s murder (and who murdered her) and how the cursed home has affected the generations of women who lived there.
Here’s the trailer:
It’s based on a gruesome unsolved mystery
The story’s author, Elizabeth Brundage, also lived in a small, upstate New York town herself when she learned that the town had a grisly crime in its history. A decade before Brundage wrote the story, a woman named Cathleen Krauseneck was found in her bed with an axe sticking out of her head. The only other person home at the time of the murder was (supposedly) Cathleen’s three-year-old daughter, who unfortunately kept her corpse company until her husband got home from work.
Without giving away the movie’s plot, Brundage says she kept some real aspects of the crime in her story and changed others. At the time that Brundage wrote her book and up until 2019 (37 years after the murder), the crime was unsolved. Catherine’s husband has now been indicted for the crime following advances in technology that led to new evidence being found.
Her husband has an inappropriate crush
One plot point in Things Heard & Seen is that Catherine and George’s marriage deteriorates as George starts his new life as a small-town family man, and Catherine is left at home to fix up the dilapidated home they purchased. George is a community college professor. He develops a crush on one of his students. This student is Willis, played by Natalia Dyer from Stranger Things.
The home they purchased has a dark past
Long before Catherine Clare is murdered, the home she and her husband buy in upstate New York had a troubling history. The family that previously lived on the old farmhouse consisted of a man named Cal who abused his wife, Ella, and their children. Eventually Cal escalated to murder, killing Ella by poisoning her with gas. Afterward, he took his own life, leaving the couple’s three boys to fend for themselves. Despite what happened there, the boys love the house they grew up in and help Catherine fix it up.
One horrifying note about the home’s grim history is that George learns about the murder-suicide when he purchases the house but doesn’t tell Catherine, leaving her to question reality when she notices signs of a haunting.
This is the directors’ first horror movie
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini are a married couple who adapted the book and directed the movie together. In 2003, the couple were nominated for an Academy Award for their comedy-drama American Splendor, and in 2011 they won an Emmy Award for another drama film, Cinema Verite. Most of the couple’s work is in the drama category. Things Heard & Seen is their first foray into the world of thrillers and horror. However, as a longtime married couple, they had one advantage when approaching the story, as Shari Springer Berman told EW: “I think one of the most frightening things in the world is a marriage….I would hope that people could watch a movie and get caught up in the drama and the scares and the relationships, but also come away thinking about some of the bigger questions about karma, about the nature of life and death.”
The movie might be better than the book
While everyone who mentions Elizabeth Brundage’s All Things Cease To Appear says that it’s a great read, some also mention that it’s a slow read. That’s because the story isn’t meant to be a primarily entertaining horror story. The book is a literary thriller, which means it’s going to have a light-handed approach to scares. One writer even guesses that the story will make for a better movie than a book.