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  • Writer's pictureEmily

See it or read it: All Things Cease to Appear

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

So many scary things, I don't know where to start. In the book, the troubles of a community in transition are explored, as well as the trouble in a marriage breaking down. Grief, fear, confusion are all present. There are two families who live in a farmhouse at different times. The Coles lose their family farm early on, and then the Clare family get the house cheap. The book follows the fate of both families. I thought it was pleasantly scary, but it has so many levels.

One of the main characters, Catherine, is trapped in the house, an unfulfilling marriage, and her role as a good wife and mother in the late 70s. She begins to believe soon after moving in to the house that it is haunted, and her husband won't listen to her. His behavior becomes more controlling and suspicious as the story goes on. (I won't give any more spoilers, but it's good.)

In the movie, Things Heard & Seen, there's less going on. More horror, with the nuances of literary fiction worn away. In some of the reviews I've read, people who go to the book expecting the usual haunted-house horror are disappointed; they might like the movie better. People who go to the movie hoping for a faithful adaptation of all the characters, themes, and events of the book will be let down.

I read some of the reviews before watching the movie, so I knew what the complaints were going in. I decided to watch with an open mind, and I thought it was OK. Really, it was pretty faithful- they had to cut out about a third of the book, and they tacked-on some spiritualist philosophy that's referred to in the book a few times and is important to one of the characters. I think it's appropriate to call it "spiritualist philosophy." It's the usual kind of religious imagery in horror films.

I wasn't crazy about either of the endings- the book ending had me rolling my eyes over the tidy ending that two characters get, but the movie ending felt rushed. But neither ending was awful.

I recommend both, but, as usual, the book is better. I'm not going to complain about the movie though, because this book had gone completely under my radar. I'd never heard of it, even though it was well-reviewed and seemed to be successful at the time it came out (in spring 2016). I heard about it this spring and grabbed a copy so that I could read it before watching the movie. So, thanks, movie!

Here's the Kirkus review for the book, and another from a site called CrimeCulture. An article on Distractify led me to the author's website, which is well worth a read.

If this convinces anyone to read the book or watch the movie, please let me know. If anyone already read the book and loved it, please leave a comment. I loved it too!

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