Stylish, morbid cinematography, & moody music composed by Joseph LoDuca, immediately place us in a dramatic atmospheric mood, even lending some hope of a better than average film with The Messengers (2007).
The Pang brothers are leading horror directors in Asia, & having them tackle a tale in English had a good chance of turning out well.
A nuclear family moves into an old farmhouse which they don't know has a terrible past, one that haunts it still. Their toddler Ben (twins Evan & Theodore Turner taking turns at the role) begins at once to interact with & see the ghosts.
The adults take much longer to catch on. Dad is played badly by Dylan McDermott who never ceases to be a mediocre television star who has no proper place in feature films. Mom's played by Penolope Ann Miller, likewise borrowed from tv shows & the most forgettable of movies. Cast-wise, hope of a good film is swiftly diminishing.
John Corbet is the hired hand who has more charisma than the purported leads, but is odd-man-out with nothing to do in the story until over halfway through when he transforms instantaneously into the villain, simultaneous with the film falling off the deep end of failure.
When the teenage daughter (Kristen Stewart) becomes the target of considerable threat, mom & dad don't even try to listen to her worries, as she's been a disappointing daughter to them for some while & they have become completely insensitive to her safety & well being. They pretty much take a "knock it off you bitch" attitude to anything she does or says, so she's on her own, with the safety of her baby brother additionally in her hands.
The dullard, idiot parents remain throughout unpleasant & uninteresting. Spooky images abound, exclusively cliche.
The success or failure hinges on child actors, who just can't hold the whole tale afloat on their own, though out of this tattered cast-bag Kristen does come closest to achieving something in spite of the poor material provided for her heroic efforts.
Still wanting to find something to praise in the Pang brothers' behalf, I must say the image of the bright sunflower crop verses the glum menacingly haunted house is a fine choice for pictoriality, & the crows that connect the house & the crop certainly are more interesting than the human players. In general the cinematography can't be faulted.
Slick & well done visually, it nevertheless offers nothing new, so falls short in the story category. We get vicious crows; a spot on the wall that won't wash off; multiple ghosts that can crawl on ceilings or scrabble out of the soil; & much else tossed in whether it fits or not, merely to busy-up a slim story.
All the while, the parents are such dim bulbs that one almost wishes the worst will happen to them. But finally mom sees for herself a horrid ghost manifest in the permanent spot on the wall, & all too belatedly realizes daughter Jess is after all not the problem.
Almost as if during the scriptwriting process the Pangs realized it was all kind of lame, they suddenly decide what they really needed was a psychopath & some video game scenarios. So with ghosts up the wazoo adding up to squat, suddenly the "extra" cast member becomes the worst part of the family's troubles.
When all hell breaks loose it's just the same-old same-old horror shtick speeded up a bit. If a psycho killer plus plenty of spooks is enough for ya, & you don't mind when shlock has little that resembles a story, then this film's for you, chockablock with jack-in-the-box motion & ha-ha-scared-ya loud noises on the soundtrack to insure the jolt.
If like me you prefer a little more story than you get from a video game or a spook-house carnival ride utterly void of imagination, then you might want to skip The Messengers.
I suppose it's a spoiler to mention that the worst of it is how it gets a dumbass happy ending tacked on. Even a four-tined pitchfork through the back isn't enough to kill off a "good" character. With the parents' longstanding refusal to listen to their daughter, surely one or the other parent should've died saving the kids & redeeming their lack of parental skills.
Instead we get the Disney ending, as if being stalked by a psycho & nearly sucked underground by angry ghosts is a healing thing. So for me this film was one disappointment after another.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl