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The Messengers
Only one director should be enough to make this
The Messengers
A Scene from the Horror/Thriller "The Messengers".
OPENING WEEKEND: $18,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $44,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

August 25th, 2006: When their rebellious 15-year old daughter Jess (Kristen Stewart) continuously gets into trouble, Roy (Dylan McDermott) and Denise Solomon (Penelope Ann Miller) decide that a change of scenery may be in order. The father’s unemployment woes and longing for his rural upbringing lead them out of the chaos of Chicago and into the seemingly serene scene of North Dakota. In an attempt to repair the family’s damaged relationship and in order to make a living, Roy purchases a run-down sunflower farm. Soon, they are befriended by a mysterious drifter named Johnny Burwell (John Corbett), who seems to know the ominous history of the property all too well. While renovations are proceeding accordingly, Roy begins to exhibit drastic personality changes. A series of frighteningly gloomy events convince Jess and her little brother that ghosts may be haunting the farm. It isn’t long before their suspicions are confirmed.

What to Expect: The Messengers continues Hollywood’s recent trend to capitalize on the growing popularity of Asian horror films in America. Once again, Sam Raimi’s production company Ghost House Pictures is behind the project. Raimi, who started out as a cult horror film director himself, has now achieved worldwide fame with his Spider-Man franchise and has expanded his interests into production. The Grudge, which was a remake of its Japanese counterpart, and its upcoming sequel were both produced by Ghost House Pictures as well.

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Raimi’s contribution to the trend this time around is his acquisition of the Pang brothers, who will make their English-language debut with The Messengers. The twins are perhaps best known for their stylish ghost story The Eye, which has spawned two sequels overseas and is currently in the early stages of being remade for American audiences with Jessica Alba and Tom Cruise in the lead roles. The two brothers are known for their visually inventive techniques and keen sense for startling design, but their approach to the daily grind of making films is one of the most unique anyone is ever bound to come across. The duo typically works together on the same projects, unless each brother wants to tackle a completely different genre, in which case they usually decide to go their separate ways, with each one making an entirely different film. When they do collaborate, they tend to alternate days as directors. While one is filming, the other is in the cutting room, editing his scenes from the previous day’s shoot. This is the sort of efficiency that the Saw franchise needs if it wants to continue releasing sequels only a year apart. Bound by that inexplicable connection that twins frequently have, the two trust each other to the point that there is no need for both of them to ever be on set together at the same time. According to testimonies from actors who have worked with them, they are almost interchangeable professionally and no one really notices any differences in the work environments that each twin creates. In fact, when they get together at the end of the shoot to re-cut all of their scenes together, they frequently find that they have utilized the same camera angles in similar situations. However, the bizarre professional relationship benefits from their slightly contrasting personalities, which allow them to decide whose sensibilities are better suited for a particular scene.

Kristen Stewart, who was so fantastic with her hurtfully snotty attitude toward her mother (Jodie Foster) in Panic Room will now get a chance to star in a much more prominent, albeit similar role. This is exactly the type of part that has catapulted so many teenage scream queens before her into major Hollywood players. She should be ideal for the role. Both Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller will bring some necessary veteran experience into the feature, but neither is so overwhelmingly illustrious as to completely overshadow Stewart in the lead. John Corbett, who is probably best known as the charming non-Greek fiancée from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, will play the enigmatic stranger who befriends the family. His character is seemingly good-hearted, but the part leaves a lot of room for doubt about his motivation and connection to the peculiar occurrences that begin to plague the Solomons.

On the plus side, The Messengers is based on an original screenplay, which at least represents a fresh start rather than another uninspired remake of an Asian horror flick. The vast sunflower fields present the most promising aspect of the film. I’m reminded of the suspense M. Night Shyamalan was able to create so convincingly with the rustle and subtle movement within the cornfields of the isolated Pennsylvania farm in his last great film, Signs. The filmmakers will also take a page out of Hitchcock by employing trained ravens as crows in the movie. Imported from the Czech Republic, the birds will have an integral role of signaling impending doom. Although the cast has been secretive about the plot developments, Stewart has revealed that the film’s climax was not scripted. Although this sort of spontaneity could yield some interesting results, it might also backfire.

On the minus side, The Messengers does sound a lot like another generic ghost story. It may not be a remake, but what does it matter when it looks to be borrowing a lot of the standard elements from recent horror films. While talking about the film, Danny Pang revealed that three different ghosts, with varying degrees of hostility, would haunt the Solomon farm. Their hostility would be directly proportional to the manner in which the three people died (for example, the most vicious ghost probably died the most gruesome or unfair death). Essentially, that means that much like with The Grudge and The Ring, the audience will be forced to sit through tedious revelations of how each ghost came to be – a way of providing pointless closure with rational explanations of irrational phenomena. Also, by going for the PG-13 label, the producers are probably more concerned with targeting the teenage demographic than with providing genuine scares. In an interview with horror.com, John Corbett observed that a lot of the scenes that he was shooting did not turn out quite as gory as they seemed to be on paper. When he asked producers about the discrepancy, they apparently told him, “Well, we’re making this movie for 15-year old girls.” That sounds almost as scary as Material Girls. In his interview, Danny Pang revealed that producers helped him with the casting process. They influenced his decisions by saying things like, “No, this one is not enough to support the marketing.” I’m not sure why Corbett and Pang would express themselves in such a way during promotional interviews since their revelations seem rather detrimental to the movie’s future.

In Conclusion: I cannot imagine an intelligently frightening horror film when it is so blatantly being marketed toward adolescents. Studios have every right to make movies for teenagers and teenagers have every right to enjoy such movies, but this sort of approach suggests that there is less concern with the film’s quality than with how much money can be made. I don’t disapprove of the business, but rather the craft. I sometimes wonder if it would be possible to market an hour-and-a-half of nothing but black screen so effectively as to make millions opening weekend, before the rest of the country finds out what’s in store for them if they chose to see it.

Similar Titles: When A Stranger Calls, An American Haunting, The Ring Two
February 2nd, 2007 (wide)
June 5th, 2007 (DVD)

Columbia Pictures

Oxide Pang, Danny Pang

Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, John Corbett, Dustin Milligan, William B. Davis

Total: 72 vote(s).

Horror, Suspense

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing violence and terror

84 min





The Messengers at AskMen.com

The Messengers at RottenTomatoes.com

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