‘The Messengers’: Pangs of regret

Fri, 02/09/2007 - 3:36pm
By: Michael Boylan

This film operates under the assumption that there are ghosts, but only little children can see them. The spirits that inhabit a farm house in North Dakota lurk in all sorts of strange places (standing on a bed, crawling on a ceiling), but why? Do they have nefarious plans for the new home owners or are they trying to tell them something?

The Pang brothers, Danny and Oxide, directed this movie and would like to have it both ways. I am choosing not to let them. (By the way, I love the name Oxide and would like to retroactively name my son Oxide.) If you are warning somebody of danger, why try to drag them down the basement stairs using your undead force? If you’re just trying to kill these unwelcome newcomers, get on with it already.

The Solomon family, a damaged family in dire financial straits, has left Chicago to start a sunflower farm in North Dakota. Why not, right? It’s a viable option that many of us often consider on those long, dark, nights of soul-searching at 4 a.m. Anyway, the Solomon’s teenage daughter, Jess, has lost her parent’s trust, so when she starts seeing weird things, they obviously don’t believe her. Her baby brother, Ben, doesn’t talk, but it does look like he’s staring at something when he looks at the ceiling and giggles or points at a wall ominously.

Jess eventually finds out that the previous owners of the farm just up and disappeared but nobody knows exactly what happened, not the boy she met at a local basketball court nor the Solomon’s new hired farmhand, Burwell, played amicably by John Corbett.

The beginning of this movie, aside from a flashback of the previous family being attacked by an unseen force, moves really, really slow. North Dakota slow. Things pick up here and there and the Pangs do a good job of ratcheting up the intensity and the scares for awhile, but the film quickly loses steam and the ending is really predictable.

Why not give the viewer some more red herrings throughout the film, some cool ideas to pontificate on? There is certainly enough down time with people walking through hallways or growing sunflowers. Why not play up the divide between Jess and her parents and let the audience think that this girl might actually be crazy? Why not have more baby and ghost interaction?

I will give “The Messengers” kudos for using The Smoking Man from “The X-Files” and I admit that I jumped in my seat more than a few times. Still, this wasn’t great and the Pangs have done great work before. I suggest renting “The Eye,” if you want to see a creepy flick.


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