The Messengers is the first English language movie directed by Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang – the two guys that gave us the 2002 Asian thriller, The Eye.
A fairly standard and simple plot line, The Messengers focuses on Roy (Dylan McDermott) and Denise (Penelope Ann Miller) who uproot their somewhat troubled family from the city and move to the country to work on a farm. Instantly you can tell where this movie is going, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing… Once at the house, strange happenings arise and soon enough we begin the learn of the tragic incident that took place in the house years prior – think The Grudge, in circumstances only mind.
Roy and Denise are your typical horror film parents; mistrusting and a tad bitter. Their family hangs together by a thread and they thought that moving to the country would help bring them closer after the tragedy that occurred at the hands of their teenage daughter (Kristen Stewart) tore them apart. Of course, they’re so blind to their daughter after she screwed up that when the ghosts start to rear their heads and she warns them, they put it off and accuse her of lying. McDermott and Miller succeed quite well in purveying their characters, but they could only do so much with the archetypal, shallow characters they were given – but they are likeable…well the ‘Dad’ is, ‘Mum’ is a little dry.
Kristen Stewart’s character Jess is written just as thinly as her on-screen parents. Her character’s job is to simply warn the family of the supernatural happenings and to bring a little tame romance to the screen with the local untalented basketball jock, Bobby (Dustin Milligan). She more than anyone, except maybe her baby brother Ben who is mute, witnesses the paranormal activity and though she tries to make her parents take heed and move out of the house, she fails. Her character allows us to get a few jumps and scares out of the film.
The antagonists of the movie take the form of three ghosts whose appearances cannot help but evoke images of Asian horror – the clothes, the make-up, the hair, the face. Needless to say, they are pretty terrifying – there is one scene that takes case on the kitchen ceiling that particularly sticks in my mind.
There is a nice little twist at the end involving a secondary character. I do wish however that instead of being tacked on at the that, that one of our main characters had been able to figure out the mystery themselves before it was revealed to the audience by the director. Still, it is quite a gripping end to the film.
There are some really great atmospheric scenes in The Messengers, but as previously mentioned the plot line isn’t especially well developed and does come across as generic. However, that’s not to stop you from enjoy this Hollywood horror- I’m sure it’ll make you spill your popcorn at least once or twice.