Things Heard & Seen Ending Explained | Screen Rant

The Things Heard & Seen ending proves it's a relationship drama masquerading as a horror film. Based on a famed book by Elizabeth Brundage, Things Heard & Seen follows young married couple Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) and George (James Norton) as they relocate to a small town in upstate New York so George can work as a professor at the local college. Though the pair, who also have a young daughter named Franny, seems relatively happy and hopeful for the future, there's palpable tension bubbling beneath the surface before the family makes its big move to kick off the film's events.

As the family gets settled in their new home in Things Heard & Seen, Catherine quickly realizes that the house is haunted. However, the more she learns about the spirits, the more her marriage begins to unravel. Catherine fears that her husband, like other members of Things Heard & Seen's cast of characters (whether they be living or deceased), may not be the man she thought he was all along. The spirits haunting their home are revealed to be former residents of the house, condemned to horrible deaths by their husbands. Though Catherine is a good person and has a positive sort of relationship with Ella Vayle's ghost, the spirits of vengeful husbands also linger in the house and end up possessing George.

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By the end of Things Head & Seen, he goes on a murderous rampage that tragically ends with him putting an ax through Catherine's torso. While it's unclear if George ends up getting away with the multiple murders and an attempted murder he commits in the movie's latter half, the final shot of Things Heard & Seen's unanswered question-generating movie ending indicates that his actions have damned him to Hell. As the film reiterates every now and again, the story's universe is one where good always triumphs over evil — whether in this life or the next.

Almost as soon as the family moves into the house at the beginning of Things Heard & Seen, Catherine and Franny begin having visions of a ghostly woman — who turns out to be Ella Vayle. As these visions are typically accompanied by spooky occurrences, such as flickering lights, the spirit is initially presented to the audience as a threat. But as Catherine reveals to George's colleague, Floyd, she comes to view the presence as a comfort. In fact, Ella is very much in Catherine's corner. She even seemingly senses the disingenuous nature of things George often says as he's uttering them and attempts to protect Catherine from him and his unpredictable violence that progressively ramps up throughout Things Heard & Seen, akin to Jack Torrance in Kubrick's The Shining.

It's revealed that Ella's husband seemingly went mad one day, as he shot all of their cows and proceeded to kill himself and his wife by a murder-suicide. Ella's spirit was seemingly tied to the house afterward, as she's stuck in a sort of Earth-bound Purgatory in between life and death. It also seems to be her destiny to protect Catherine, whose marital situation and eventual death are so strikingly similar to hers. The women of the house have seemingly always been cursed to meet gruesome endings to their lives. The first woman, who is also presumed to have been killed by her husband in the 1800s, was there for Ella when her husband murdered her. She seems to be sort of returning the favor by protecting Catherine throughout the meaningful Netflix horror movie, watching over her from the moment George starts to show his disturbing true colors.

Physically, each of the wives in Things Heard & Seen are connected through an old ring that was unintentionally passed down to each of them. But their connection runs on a spiritual plane as well; the ring symbolizes a sort of unfortunate fate that is similarly passed down for generations of wives within the old New York farmhouse. They're all tethered by their unfortunate situations in life, specifically the plight and victimization they receive within their marriages. The women are presented as genuinely good people, ones that are/were, presumably (if the former two were anything like Catherine), sensitive and deep-feeling individuals who aren't treated with proper human respect, let alone cherished for the rich nature of their souls.

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Unbeknownst to Amanda Seyfried's character of Catherine, the women who have lived in her house are actually known to be cursed. She finds an old bible dating back to the 1800s tracking the family deaths of the previous homeowners, and Catherine and the audience learn that the previous wives' deaths were deemed "damned" by their husbands. This, of course, is partially due to the fact that they followed the teachings of Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg — who, ironically (in relation to the film's themes), claimed to have the ability to converse with spirits. While Catherine isn't familiar with Swedenborg until she moves into her new home, Things Heard & Seen makes a point to mention that she firmly believes in ghosts, despite her husband's mockery. While, even after the film's end, none of the women in the ghost story have yet to survive the curse, their predecessors' faith ensures they are not alone at the times of their deaths.

Even after freshly viewing Things Heard & Seen, what really happens to George is a tad unclear. In order to learn more about Ella's spirit, Catherine holds a seance to try and communicate with her. During the event, she learns that Ella isn't the only spirit in the house, and it's implied that the second spirit is a malevolent one. The ghost of Ella's husband also haunts the home, which is made clear when George mimicks some of his actions. George's manipulative ways are revealed throughout Things Heard & Seen as he cheats on, lies to, and gaslights Catherine. The dark, violent side of his personality is amplified by the influence of Ella's husband's ghost.

Just as the women of the house are doomed to gruesome ends, the men are fated to reveal their cruel natures. While George may have eventually revealed this side of himself to Catherine at some point over the course of their marriage, the influence of the malevolent spirits in the house throughout this 2021 Netflix horror movie is what drives him to murder. After all, Catherine is one of the people that are (justifiably) tearing George's carefully constructed world apart. She sees him for who he truly is, and even plans on leaving him and taking Franny with her.

Religion and general faith are overt themes in Things Heard & Seen, and make appearances throughout the movie in distinct and meaningful ways. One is way is how Swedenborg is repeatedly referenced, along with George Inness' painting, "The Shadow of the Valley of Death." These inclusions foreshadow the movie's climax and ending. The film even kicks off with a quote from Swedenborg that sets the tone — "This I can declare: things that are in heaven are more real than things that are in the world." This refers to the lingering spirits of the wives in Catherine and George's home because their ghosts are very much a real presence in the former character's life. Catherine lives out Swedenborg's beliefs by communing with the women before her in this book-to-movie adaptation.

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Artist George Inness was a devout follower of Swedenborg himself. The aforementioned name of his painting was taken from a Bible verse that states, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me..." Catherine's death reflects this quote. She calls out to Ella as soon as she realizes George intends to kill her. Ella reassures Catherine that she'll be with her until the end, just as the first wife was there for her. Things Heard & Seen repeatedly touches on the same crucial, and very spiritual, point throughout the film: good will eventually win out against evil in the end. This is even possible after death, as dying is what Swedenborg said was just a new beginning.

Though Things Heard and Seen garnered plenty of bad reviews, the horror movie does have a great deal of layered, thoughtful symbolism. Floyd reveals that Inness' "The Shadow of the Valley of Death" is meant to represent a soul transitioning into the afterlife — this comes into play during the final scene. After his murdering spree, George is seemingly cleared of both Floyd and Catherine's deaths. He attempted to kill his colleague and Catherine's friend, Justine, by running her off the road, which put her in a coma. But once she woke up and told George she remembered everything, he knew it was all over for him.

As he steals a sailboat and sets off, Things Heard & Seen's end scene transitions into a fiery version of "The Shadow of the Valley of Death,"  with Catherine and Ella's overlapping voices promising that they are stronger now that they are united. Their message is simple by the end of the Netflix movie adaptation — with Justine awake, she will get the long-overdue justice for the women of the cursed house. While George may have gotten away with murders by the end of Things Heard & Seen, his actions have damned him to Hell. After all, it's he and his home's previous husbands that are truly evil and damned, not their wives that they've projected that very idea onto.

Things Heard & Seen is based on Elizabeth Brundage's 2016 novel All Things Cease to Appear. The supernatural, family conflict-driven story has the same premise in the movie adaptation as it does in the book, with the usual assortment of differences that are tweaked for the big screen. Brundage has famously said she crafted the ghostly side of the story with what seemed to be eerie, paranormal happenings with her own children in their home. Apparently, like Catherine's character, they too seemed to be interacting with spirits of deceased former residents of the house.

According to Hello Magazine, Things Heard & Seen is based on a true story, to an extent, as well. The vital element of George and Catherine's deteriorating, and increasingly abusive, marriage is based on the horrifying murder of real-life New York resident Cathleen Krauseneck. In 1982, she was brutally killed in her home with an ax, just like Catherine's character in Things Heard & Seen. The case once again made headlines in 2019, when her husband, James, was indicted for second-degree murder (via People).

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