Saturday, December 19, 2009

'The Messengers' are not bringing tidings of joy

The Messengers (2007)

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, John Corbett, and Penelope Ann Miller
Directors: Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Sixteen-year-old Jess (Stewart) moves wth her parents and little brother to a remote farm where everyone hopes to get a fresh start after a very difficult couple of years. Soon after they move in, strange events start occurring in the house, and they increase to terrifying levels after Jess' father (McDermott) hires Burwell, a mysterious but friendly drifter (Corbett), to help out around the farm. Will Jess discover the secret behind the nightmarish events that only she and her little brother seem to witness before it's too late?

"The Messengers" is one of those movies that has gotten a bad rap from moronic critics who can't seem to recognize when they're not the target audience for a film. Yes, there is nothing new or innovative in this film, nor is the plot particularly clever--anyone who's seen more than three haunted out movies KNOWS that Burwell is somehow the key to the haunting of Jess and the house. However, for the target audience--which is 12-14 year-old girls who want something spooky for the slumber party, this is just about the perfect movie. (The protagonist is a girl who is having a hard time getting along with her parents, who no one listens to, and who saves the day almost by herself. It's also a film that ultimately carries with it a very strong message of family values and that parents and children still love each other even if they sometimes argue.)

Even seasoned ghost movie watchers will find something to like about this flick--so maybe it's worth watching if you're a parent with a girl in the house who likes creepy movies--as it moves along at a brisk (if predictable pace) and there are some nicely staged chills and some even better "gotcha!" scenes. (Say what you will about this movie being derivative, but directors Pang-Chun and Pang understand that if you're going to have spooky music playing on the soundtrack and/or set up a creepy circumstances, you better have it pay off. Too many PG-13 and even some R-rated horror flicks these days seem to think that all you need to do to make a horror movie is to build suspense and then go "ha-ha... just kidding!")

There's another thing the filmmakers recognized here that more creators need to take to heart: That last second shock, after the viewer things the horror is all over with, that was so startling when it first came into vogue some 35-40 years ago is no longer shocking. It's now so expected that it's often annoying because it is so obviously tacked on. Thankfully, the creators involved with "The Messengers" knew to avoid THAT cinematic cliche, and they ended up giving their movie an ending that wrapped the story and themes of the film perfectly. The climactic events of the film plus its denouement are worth a full point on the ratings scale by themselves, as we go from very scary to very peaceful.