The Messengers

There are two types of horror movies in theaters today.  The first is where some sort of supernatural phenomena haunts a person or group of people.  In this case, the "ghost," of whatever it is, is trying to convey something to the people living.  The second is not real horror, but just gore pretending to be horror.  The Messengers falls squarely into the first category, and anybody who has seen one or more Asian horror movies or their remakes will know exactly what to expect and how it unfolds.  This is just genre moviemaking, where everything is interchangeable.  It's like a Mad Lib.  The blanks are for the characters, setting, and a few other elements of the plot.  The one difference here is the presence of Thai filmmakers and brothers Danny and Oxide Pang.  Most people in the US know them for The Eye (currently being remade by Tom Cruise's production company) and Bangkok Dangerous.  The Eye knew exactly what type of movie it was, and the Pangs played on this, toying with the audience in a way that was scary and a bit fun.  The Messengers does the same time, bring a bit of freshness into a stale script.

The setting this time is rural North Dakota, where Roy Solomon (Dylan McDermott, Runaway Jury, Wonderland) moved his family.  The Solomons used to live in Chicago, but something traumatic happened in the recent past.  This event looms large in the way that the family interacts with each other, but screenwriter Mark Wheaton and Todd Farmer (Jason X) in typical fashion do not reveal it until late into the movie.  What is obvious is that Roy's wife Denise (Penelope Ann Miller, Funny Money, Along Came A Spider) and their daughter Jess (Kristen Stewart, Zathura, Undertow) do not get along.  Jess' baby brother Ben (Evan and Theodore Turner) does not speak.  The house is dilapidated and creepy looking, so when Jess starts hearing things, her parents chalk it up to nerves and/or her hidden past.  Roy is going to try his hand and growing sunflowers, and hires on Needless to say, there is something else going on Burwell (John Corbett, Raise Your Voice, Raising Helen) on for help.  Needless to say, there is something supernatural going on, and only Jess knows about it.  Well, as the previews state, Ben knows about it too, but he doesn't speak, he just looks and points.

The Pang brothers are good at creating moments that make people jump, and they have a decent setting (complete with a dank basement) for eerie visuals (the crows are a nice touch).  The camera constantly moves, giving the movie a sense of fluidity that isn't actually there.  And The Messengers is a bit better than average, but on the whole is still mediocre.  The plot is a recycle of countless other movies, especially J-horror ones.  Worst, upon closer examination, the story doesn't make a lick of sense.  Why does it matter that only Ben can see ghosts?  And what does the title have to do with anything?  The adults are pretty dense, and Stewart (in her first headlining role) opts for the hysterical.    It feels like there were plenty of ideas in making the movie, and The Messengers was a way to string them together.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 24 minutes, Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing violence, and terror.

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