Things go bump in the night in The Messengers, usually in the form of shadowy figures that flash across the screen for about 10 frames at a time (if you’re lucky, maybe a full second) while accompanied by unnecessarily loud noises. It’s a pity, because for as egregious as this gimmicky scare tactic becomes, it’s one that twin directors Danny and Oxide Pang know how to repeatedly pull off well; with the script at hand, it’s about the only thing keeping the film from sinking below a feature-length running time. Concerning a Chicago family who relocates to a North Dakota farm in order to start anew after struggling with unemployment, the film is ripe with potential post-9/11 examinations of the everyday ways in which economic instability and past traumas affect our collective behavior. Films like Final Destination 3 and Hostel manipulate these fears through their portrayals of visceral body carnage. Less offensive but more far more boring, The Messengers channels these notions (perhaps inadvertently) into the conventions of a wishy-washy soap opera, with nary a line of dialogue not sounding as if it were spit out of a screenwriting computer program. Angsty teenager Jess (Kristen Stewart) bears witness to the ghostly Grudge-like spirits that inhabit her families’ new farmhouse—former inhabitants who met untimely ends, as depicted in a pre-credits sequence—only to be expectedly ignored by her parents, who trivialize her ghost story claims in the face of a recent DUI tragedy. The Pangs might know how to knee-jerk shock an audience ad nauseam (although, admittedly, one sequence that features two characters facing opposite directions is almost brilliant in its juggling of perspective and oncoming dread), but the remainder of The Messengers suffers from shamelessly thudding banality. Now, think fast: is Jess’s sporting of a T-shirt with the number 23 on it a mere coincidence, or a subtle bout of advertisement for the Jim Carrey feature due in theaters later this month?
- Columbia Pictures
- 84 min
- Oxide Pang, Danny Pang
- Mark Wheaton
- Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, John Corbett, Evan Turner, Theodore Turner, William B. Davis, Brent Briscoe, Dustin Milligan
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