The Unheard (2023): Shudder is the single most dedicated platform for horror films of all shapes, sizes, and kinds. Its commitment to bringing us films of the genre from around the globe is admirable. Their efforts often offer up movies like The Unheard, which is uniquely placed to capture your imagination with a thoughtful albeit tedious narrative.
Jeffrey Brown directs a script by the Rasmussens, which is structured around a deaf girl undergoing experimental treatment to get her hearing back. The procedure coincides with stark revelations about her missing mother and unresolved issues within her family.
While one can appreciate the intimate and offbeat staging to refresh the genre slate, it is hard to get past the resultant distortion of rudimentary cinematic essentials, such as light, sight, and sound. The creative choices in the script and storytelling to characterize Chloe’s character, setting, and the film’s central conceit potentially take the interest away from watching it. That is because The Unheard becomes extremely difficult to follow and process.
Unresolved details leave gaps in our sense of the plotting. For the benefit of those who have watched it, we have come up with this piece to explain essential plot points and the ending of Shudder’s The Unheard.
The Unheard (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
The plot of The Unheard revolves around Chloe, a teen girl undergoing an experimental hearing procedure. Even though she was not born deaf, she lost her hearing in a childhood incident. The procedure works, and she gets her hearing back. But even with that happening, she is not able to shrug off the echoes of her mother’s distorted and scrambled voice.
Those voices disturb her to the extent that it threatens her hearing altogether. Her mother has been missing since she was 8, but no one knows what happened to her. She has to solve the mystery on her own as she comes across old faces like Hank, her father’s trusted handyman, and Joshua, her kindergarten bestie with whom she lost contact.
What is the special reason behind Chloe’s wish to undergo the procedure for her hearing?
Chloe opened up about her real purpose for undergoing the intervention to Dr. Sophia Lynch. The two had drinks at a bar after Sophia felt Chloe was cooped up alone in her house.
Chloe said that when she lost her hearing, the echoes of her mother’s voice did not evaporate. They stayed with her and never let Chloe be at rest. It was almost as if her mother was reaching out to her in a way. This might have been because she wanted Chloe to resolve the mystery of her disappearance.
But Chloe underwent the procedure so that she could drown out that voice with the sound of the world. Chloe thought once she got her hearing back, the echoes of her mother would go away.
Her mother’s voice is the only clear sound in her head. She thought if the volume of the world got back up again, she would stop hearing the mother’s voices. But they haven’t stopped. That did not turn out to be the case, as we learn later on in The Unheard.
What is wrong with the town? Why are girls going missing?
Even though The Unheard never clearly professes to be a film about serial killing, that is essentially the heart of the plot. The approach revolving around that central conceit is totally different, which makes the film stand out. It also dilutes the impact of the narrative elements that come with that sort of subject matter. Hence, the mysterious disappearances of women in the town are not focused on too much. We get a few instances – like the blonde woman being abducted after work closing shop – hinting in that direction.
The inclusion of this information is done quite subtly by the makers. One has to be attentive to the details in the background, where we see the entire town flooded with flyers and posters seeking information about missing women, all in the same demographic.
Chloe’s mother, too, disappeared when she was of that age, and hence, that ties up with the larger narrative of Chloe figuring it out. The girls are going missing because there is a serial killer on the loose, and law enforcement in the small town has not been able to figure the crimes out.
Why did Joshua set up camp in the house across the marsh?
Joshua was a really misunderstood character and was used as an effective red herring by the makers. We were constantly led to believe that there was something sinister and shady about him. Joshua purported to have malicious intentions for Chloe, but it turns out that was exactly the opposite of the truth.
Chloe figured out Joshua was the guy in the house across the marsh when she chased him through the town and ended up at his secret place, where he had computers set up to canvas Chloe’s surroundings.
When she confronts him about it, Joshua has an honest and almost incredulous answer. He has been hearing voices of different frequencies from Chloe’s house. Joshua thinks her mother is trying to contact Chloe, something he also believes is true. He shows her visuals and sounds on frequencies normal people cannot hear.
But only Chloe can. These are the same sounds that make her ears bleed when the frequency gets too much for her to handle. Joshua also shockingly confirms that there was no party at his house, which makes Chloe suspicious. She abruptly stops Joshua and leaves the house.
How does Chloe’s mother communicate with her?
Chloe’s mother uses the television to communicate with Chloe. This tangent gives a supernatural flavor to the story, but it is not spooky. The makers use it as a progressive tool to embellish the narrative. But the communication is not straightforward and something not very obvious. Given Chloe’s special ability to hear frequencies that normal humans can’t, her mother uses the higher wave frequencies to talk to her. But most of the time, the effort goes in vain as Chloe’s ears start bleeding, and she stops.
Chloe’s “auditory hallucinations,” as Sophie termed the incidents, were due to this reason. This could be because Chloe acquired a unique perspective on everyday sounds after being in a coma for six months due to meningitis.
Her mother is trying to contact Chloe because she is the last person to see her mother. One can definitely understand if that forged a special imprint of Chloe’s mother on her. And that is why she was seeking help only through Chloe.
The Unheard (2023) Ending, Explained:
Who killed Chloe’s mother and the other women?
The ending essentially begins the moment Sophie confronts Chloe about her blatant lies during the process of her procedure. Chloe was taking antidepressants, and Lynch confronted her about it.
She feels this revelation could derail her project and spoil the study. It would have destroyed years of work and money that she has put in. Then, Sophie’s ears start ringing, and it won’t stop. She wakes up in the morning and then finds out about Joshua in town. These two events triggered the slow-burn, annoying ending that played out to give you most of the answers.
Chloe’s mother talks to Chloe through the television when she is home alone after these torturous events that disrupt her mental peace. After intense frequency distortions, blood comes out from her ears.
After this incident, we see that she wakes up in the house, and an ominous storm brews outside. She sees Hank in the house. He says her father has asked him to come and look after Chloe due to the tumultuous weather. But she is suspicious.
Chloe sees a photo of Hank and her mother together. The photo also has Chloe’s father, but Hank has folded him, indicating Hank might have liked Chloe’s mother. Hank keeps cutting Chloe’s dad’s calls and takes out the sim card from her phone, and destroys it. But she does not know it. This move confirms that it is Hank who killed Chloe’s mother, probably out of jealousy and the fact that she might have rejected his advances.
Hank has kidnapped Chloe, and he is the person who is attacking women all over town. Chloe is sure of this and decides to plan an escape. She goes to the washroom, turns on all the taps, and makes sure she does not make many sounds as she breaks out through the window. She runs away toward the forest area. Hank eventually catches up and chases after her with his car. She is forced into a room where the bodies of Hank’s victims are hanging.
Hank eventually finds Chloe. Subsequently, he sees striking similarities between her and her mother. He ties Chloe up and prepares to kill her. But Joshua arrives just in time to disrupt his plans. He looks for Chloe, but Hank greets him and then hits him.
Hank severely wounds Joshua, but he does not know that Chloe has been able to free herself. She strikes Hank with a mighty blow on the head and rushes downstairs. She tries to help the ailing Joshua, who is barely conscious.
Suddenly, the television switches on by itself. This time, Chloe is able to bear through the excruciating frequency distortion despite blood flowing down her ears. And we see Hank killing Chloe’s mother in a video that plays out. Hank neutralizes Chloe when he is able to come down, but Chloe stabs Hank decidedly, but he still persists.
This time when the television turns on by itself, high-frequency voices start coming out come out. It is Chloe’s mother trying to help her, and Hank is the only one affected. He holds his head in dismay, and the frequency of the voice is too much for him to bear it. Hank dies, and Chloe hears her mother again and elatedly says, “happy 4th of July, mom.”
What did Chloe mean by “happy 4th of July, mom?”
Chloe’s phrase simply means that her mother could finally be free. Her spirit was still in the mortal plane and it couldn’t be at peace without avenging her murder. She stayed back and tried to communicate through the television with her daughter.
Chloe was being prepared for this epic finale by frequently exposing her to this high-pitched noise. In the end, this noise itself is what took down Hank, but because Chloe was already exposed to it and gained a threshold, she was immune. Her mother can finally be at peace knowing that her daughter is safe and her killer has received true retributive justice.