The Messengers *1/2
Directed by Danny Pang and Oxide Pang
Written by Mark Wheaton based on a story by Todd Farmer
Kristen Stewart as Jess
Dylan McDermott as Roy
Penelope Ann Miller as Denise
John Corbett as Burwell
Evan Turner and Theodore Turner as Ben
William B. Davis as Colby
Dustin Mulligan as Bobby
84 Minutes(Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing violence and terror.)
It took me quite some time to finally watch "The Messengers," and two attempts. The first attempt I made it through about forty five minutes before I finally decided to just succumb to my sleep. I figured that I could just see it another time-free of charge. So I finally made it to the second time, and even though my eyelids got heavy once more, I somehow managed to pry them awake and sit through the whole movie. The thing is, it isn't an intolerable picture-I just happened to be extremely tired both times I tried to watch it. Yes, it's bad. It's not a good film. It's predictable, and very obvious, with more cheap thrills than I have fingers. But compared to some of the other horror efforts, "The Messengers" is almost to the point where it's halfway decent, which means that they were on the right track. The silly ending and the horrible "jump scenes" just took away, breaking any type of mood they tried to make. And the standard horror acting applies here, and I have decided to start a new rule: never hire Penelope Ann Miller for anything. She is easily one of the worst actresses around. I really can't find a positive attribute. She's not even worth looking at for eighty minutes.
"The Messengers" starts with a murder in a creepy house, so we know exactly where and when the action will take place. The same house, and a few years later. The family that ends up moving into the house is Jess' family, and the family has been going through some hard times. Jess was drinking one night, and on a trip to pick up her little brother Ben from the babysitter, she got into an accident. Ben hasn't talked since, and as a way to pick up a few extra bucks, the jobless father Roy buys a farmhouse, hoping that the upcoming harvest will turn things around for the family. Jess isn't happy in the new house-it's distant from everything that she knows, it's scary, and there are dead people that like to crawl around on the ceilings at night. Hell, even in the middle of the day. While she can sense a presence, the only person that could actually see the dead are Ben-but his young mind, of course, doesn't register what is going on. Her father hires Burwell, a drifter in the area, to help him with some of the farm work. But meanwhile, Jess finds that whenever she is alone she notices something in the house. And the bruises on her arm left from when the dead grab her become objects in her parents nightmares, as they believe that she is hurting herself just to get a little attention. How can she possibly convince her parents that the house is full of dead people? I don't know. . .
The Pang Brothers do go for a spooky atmosphere more than the usual jump scenes. I'm grateful that there was never a scene where a character is scared of a sound, opens a door and then it turns out to be a cat. Instead there was a scene similar with a raven, but no cats were found here. The actual dead people do not appear very much, but when they do they do the usual dead people stuff-crawling around on the floor at a super fast speed-mostly blue. And for a horror film, as usual, it doesn't expand the genre or do anything different at all. Perhaps it cares about the audience a little more. It even tries to set up a decent parent/daughter relationship subplot. But it's predictable, and about fifty minutes in you realize exactly how it'll end. And the way that it does end comes so out of the blue and randomly, even though it's the obvious way to end it. Does that even make sense? Kristen Stewart shows potential for a future as an actress, and she is even getting much better looking from her tomboy days in "Panic Room." I'll even go so far as to congratulate the musical score-the music made it tolerable to sit through one of the those opening credit sequences. I just cannot stand opening credit sequences for movies like this-a cast of names that nobody even cares about. Movies like this should just start with the movie.
But even with all of it's pros, "The Messengers" is another horror dud, establishing a certain mood in the first half, and then becoming a usual thriller int he second. I also like how they didn't really say the significance of the title-I figured it out a little while after. But it's silly, and extremely obvious which direction the story is going. The Pang's were on to something, and maybe if they didn't work within the Hollywood system of scare, scare, SCARE! they might have had a more decent product. I have a feeling they envisioned something a little different from what they ended up with, and it's a shame because there are moments in "The Messengers" where it wasn't torture to endure. It's not torture to endure. . . not really. It's just nothing special, nothing new, and nothing worth remembering.