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Rated 2.97 stars
by 926 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Heartland Horror
by Adam Hakari

Brothers Danny and Oxide Pang make their American horror debut with The Messengers. Because Hollywood has been playing the remake card so much when it comes to Asian horror films, it was only a matter of time before the original directors of these movies got in on the action. Ringu helmer Hideo Nakata stepped behind the camera for the criminally-underrated The Ring Two, and now the Pangs take their turn. Unfortunately, The Messengers -- so slow, so clichéd, and so scare free -- proves that bad horror flicks can be born on either side of the pond. 

Brooding teenager Jess (Kristen Stewart) and her baby brother (played by Evan and Theodore Turner) are being lugged by their parents (Penelope Ann Miller and Dylan McDermott) from their home in Chicago to start life anew harvesting sunflowers in North Dakota. It's not the most exciting of lifestyles, but after some initial resistance, Jess tries giving her new surroundings an honest shot. But soon, as they always tend to do in movies like this, Strange Things begin to happen. Odd noises ring throughout the house, and little Ben sees ghastly spirits running around on the ceiling that go unnoticed by his parents.

It's not long before Jess becomes receptive to these visions as well, just in time for the ghost to become increasingly hostile and try to hurt her. Mom and Dad dismiss her as just an angry teen, and new farmhand John (John Corbett) is no help either, so it's up to Jess to uncover what the spirits dwelling within her home want before her family falls victim to their otherworldly wrath.

As a horror movie, The Messengers scrapes the bottom of the barrel of clichés, has an inert sense of creativity, and moves slower than the line for Space Mountain in July. However, my biggest beef with this wannabe freakfest is that it flat-out lies to the viewer. I'm not going to say exactly how, but if you've seen  An American Haunting, a similar device is used here. It's one thing to pull the wool over our eyes and surprise us with a twist, but it really grinds my gears (apologies to Peter Griffin) when the filmmakers go out of their way to present a scene in one distinct way, only to flash back to it later on and depict it in a completely different context. Changing scenes on a whim and whipping out subplots out of nowhere aren't wise moves, especially in a film as dreadfully slow and predictable as this one. Plus, having a two-year-old as one of the only characters who can see ghosts doesn't make sense to me, even after suspending as much disbelief as I can. If I make a loud noise, my three-year-old niece screams, yet this kid can see deformed ghosts crawling all over the place and just shrug it off?

Having helmed (both together and apart) such solid genre efforts as The Eye and Ab-Normal Beauty, the Pang Brothers know better than to churn out a continuous stream of tired, hackneyed scares. Danny and Oxide run the gamut of staple frights, from characters taking an extraordinarily long amount of time opening a closet to the always dependable shadowy form running in front of the camera (accompanied by a loud musical cue, of course). 

The poor cast members have little to do here except run, scream, and fulfill the stock roles left over from other horror movies. They engage in pathetic, worn-out melodrama whenever they're not making stupid decisions like hiding in the basement when they should be heading for the hills.

With The Messengers and The Hitcher in current release, 2007 isn't off to the best start as far as the horror genre is concerned. Still, even the wholly unnecessary remake of The Hitcher had its occasionally rousing moments. The Messengers simply rips off one horror movie after another -- but not even any of the good ones. 

MY RATING: * (out of ****)

(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated "PG-13" for mature thematic material, disturbing violence and terror.)

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