The Messengers (2007)
US (dir. The Pang Brothers)
Cast: Dustin Milligan, Dylan McDermott, Graham Bell, John Corbett, Kristen Stewart, Michael Daingerfield, Penelope Ann Miller
Synopsis: A family moves into a run-down sunflower farm. As the farm begins to revive after years of disrepair, the family begins to notice uncomfortable and alarming changes in their father’s behavior.
Review: Once again Flixster has failed to provide an accurate synopsis for a horror movie… contrary to the synopsis above, the family does not notice alarming changes in their father’s behavior. That has absolutely nothing to do with “The Messengers”. To describe it more adequately, “The Messengers” is about a haunted farmhouse and the children who are capable of seeing/sensing the ghosts within.
“The Messengers” starts off with your typical “bratty teenager sulks because her parents are moving to a rundown/possibly haunted house in the boonies” storyline. The now famous Kristen Stewart plays the part of little Miss Brat (also known as Jess). Before we are introduced to her story, we flashback to the household where she will be living. A tragedy plays out where a family is killed by what appears to be an unseen force in the house. A mother and daughter are killed, a boy manages to run and hide, and then “something” overtakes him and the flashback is over. It’s a scary little flashback, but you unfortunately don’t get to see a lot of horror. Flash-forward a few years (?) and you’re now introduced to the bratty teen and her family.
Nobody can really say they truly dream of living in a dilapidated farmhouse as a teenager, so I definitely sympathize with poor Jess. She’s kind of had a rough last few years (she was caught drinking and driving and she managed to wreck a car and injure her baby brother in the process) and her parents are trying to forgive and forget. Unfortunately her parents are going through some drama as well (lost jobs, little money, growing medical bills for their young son) and I guess they figured moving from a big city with a lot of career opporunities to a rundown sunflower farm was the best solution. Upon arriving in town, they receive a significant offer to buy the farm from a mysterious stranger (the smoking man from the X-Files TV show! OMG!) but of course they turn it down and decide living in a piece of shit farmhouse is still their best bet (to be more precise, the husband turns down the offer without ever consulting the wife, needless to say she will later express her general pissed-offed-ness).
The farmhouse truly is shitty. Even the land sucks. A bunch of crows keep attacking the crops and the children being having bizarre visions of ghost-like creatures crawling around the house. Naturally the parents have a “let’s just stick to it” attitude and they don’t really bother listening to Jess’ complaints about the creepy house. Eventually Jess turns into a bit of a basket case when she starts having visions that cannot really be explained and injuries appear on her body that appear self-inflicted (even though we know they were due to the creepy Asian ghost in the barn). I liked how, in this movie, the parents actually lash out at the kid. So many horror movies have the parents either reluctantly believing their children’s ghost encounters or just plain ignoring them altogether. In this movie you actually get the parents giving the kid hell for giving them grief, and it’s great because it’s a realistic reaction. Unfortunately the actors playing the parents aren’t quite the greatest, but they still give a good effort. Kristen Stewart plays her role with vigour, particularily because she’s so typecast as the angry/angsty teen.
The parents hire a farmhand who turns out to be the father of the family in the flashback. Remarkably, he doesn’t remember what happened, but the ghosts in the house do, and they enact their revenge by sucking him deep into the mud under the house. I’m not exactly sure why he killed his family originally, but I think it had to do something with the family deciding that sunflower farming wasn’t as lucrative as was once thought. Does this explanation for the ghost hauntings satisfy? Not really. In fact it sort of kills the movie because you really are eager to hear a badass and gory tale about the previous family and their death. Instead you get a lameass story and you feel let down.
The ghosts in this movie are incredible. The effects are superbly done and best of all, the ghosts are downright scary. There are some great, frightening sequences involving the children and the ghosts that are definitely worth checking out. It’s no suprise to me that this film spawned a sequel. The Pang Brothers do a great job with these ghosts and the overall hauntedness of the house, but they lack a strong storyline. If their storytelling was improved, this film would have been awesome. However, it’s a bit less than awesome, but still a great film nonetheless.