We’re going to be diving into the Things Heard and Seen ending explained, so this article will contain spoilers, beware if you’ve yet to watch!
Things Heard and Seen is the latest Netflix horror thriller film, adapted from Elizabeth Brundage’s novel All Things Cease to Appear. Starring Amanda Seyfried and James Norton, the film is a moody, haunting story about gaslighting, abuse and paranormal justice.
While the film begins as your standard haunted house drama with Seyfriend’s character Catherine trying to discern if their home is infested with ghosts and few creepy moments with lingering spectral presences visible just out of frame, it swiftly transforms into a somewhat esoteric domestic thriller with strong religious themes.
It becomes increasingly obvious that the real malevolent force in the film isn’t the ghosts so much as Catherine’s narcissistic husband George Claire (Norton). From the start, George uproots his wife and daughter Franny from 1980s Manhattan for life in a historic home in a small town in New York.
There he starts his new job as an art history teacher at Saginaw College, where his handsome demeanor and charms quickly earn him a cult-like following from the school’s young women, something George obviously doesn’t mind since he soon starts having an affair with a college student (albeit not one who attends Saginaw) named Willis (Stranger Thing’s star Natalie Dyer).
As the story progresses, Catherine becomes close friends with some of George’s colleagues, Floyd (F. Murray Abraham) and Justine (Rhea Seehorn). While George is quick to wave away Catherine’s theories about the paranormal activity in their home, Floyd takes her seriously and helps her understand the home’s legacy.
Things Heard and Seen ending explained: What’s haunting Catherine & George’s home?
While there is a “good” spirit in the home, there is also an evil one. Before Catherine and George moved in, two other couples lived there with their families and each one met a tragic ending as the husbands murdered their wives.
Sadly, history repeats itself by the end of Things Heard and Seen. First, Justine discovers George’s affair with Willis and goes to tell Catherine. To prevent that from happening, George runs her off the road, putting her in a coma.
And then Floyd discovers that George forged his recommendation letter from his previous teaching position at Columbia. It’s not outright said, but the film heavily implies that George was fired from his old teaching position because he was preying on his students. Since George couldn’t get a recommendation letter, he forged it.
George begs Floyd to listen to his side of the story while they go out on Floyd’s boat, but Floyd makes it clear that regardless of what George has to say, he’s going to take the matter to HR. Forgery is a crime and George will lose his job. Well, of course, George doesn’t like hearing that so he drowns Floyd off-screen.
Things Heard and Seen ending explained: Does Catherine survive the film?
When Catherine finds out what happened to Justine and hears the news about Floyd’s death, she puts two and two together. She’d already been growing suspicious of George for a while because he hid the house’s history and stole his dead gay cousin’s identity and artwork, so this is just the cherry on top.
But before Catherine can grab Franny and leave, George intervenes, sedating his wife and then going all Amityville by brutally murdering her with an ax (with a little assistance from the house’s evil male spirit).
You’d think it would be an easy open-and-shut case, but there’s no concrete proof that George killed Catherine, especially because he quickly gets an alibi in order. The only person who can give George a real motive is Justine, who luckily wakes up with a little spiritual help from a now-dead Catherine and one of the other ghostly women, Ella.
Things Heard and Seen ending explained: Does George get his comeuppance?
When George hears that Justine is awake, he realizes that his time is almost up and tries to make a run for it by stealing a boat and sailing out into the ocean. Too bad for George, you can’t run from fate, and in the final moments of Things Heard and Seen, George sees the gates of hell take shape on the sea and he, and his ship, are swallowed up by the fiery inferno as he’s taken to his rightful place below.
Things Heard and Seen ending explained: What do the directors say about the ending?
Decider chatted with the writer and directors of the film, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, about the movie’s ending, claiming there is an “enigmatic element” but it’s related to the Swedenborg image about transitioning to the afterlife that haunts most of the movie.
George Inness who did this painting was this devotee of Swedenborg. This was his belief system. And he painted the moment where we transition into the afterlife—that’s what he wanted to express. One of the original husbands in the house decided that his wife was damned because she was a heretic in his eyes. She was exploring ideas that he didn’t approve of.
So it’s like: Who gets to damn someone? Who is the damed in this story, and how does the universe correct? I think it’s actually a very topical notion as we’re seeing this kind of cultural revolt going on with, “toxic people” who have gotten away with things for so long getting their comeuppance. There’s something very satisfying about this shift of who’s damned actually in this story and who has the power to do that. I think there’s a spiritual power, you know, feminine power in this movie that really delivers the ending.
Things Seen and Heard is now available to stream on Netflix.