The Messengers Delivers Fun Scares

February 2, 2007

Nothing is more refreshing than a really good ghost story. One that is original, but still can grab a hold of you and pull you in. One of my favorite horror films of all time is Tobe Hooper's Poltergiest. It's one of those classics that still scares me every time I see it. The newest attempt to scare audiences with ghosts comes in the form of The Messengers. A Japanese-American hybrid that falls short on originality but succeeds in delivering a suspenseful enough story to scare us for the 84-minute running time.

Down on their luck the terribly clichéd Solomon family moves from Chicago to a sunflower farm in North Dakota to try and make a respectable living. Jess (Kristen Stewart) isn't terribly thrilled by the move and hates life on the farm. Her life takes a turn for the worst when she starts experiences strange encounters around the creepy farmhouse. Her younger brother, who is only two years old, is the only other person who can see the ghosts, but unfortunately he hasn't spoken for over a year.

Kristen Stewart as Jess in the sunflower field on the farm in The Messengers.

I will admit that there has not been a good supernatural thriller for some time. While The Messengers isn't a groundbreaking film, it's a bit of fresh air when it comes to the scares. There aren't too many jump scares and the ones that are in the film work. There was one scene in particular that worked very well. After hearing a bunch of weird noises coming from downstairs, Jess decides to take her brother to investigate. Since he is the only one who can see the spirits, Jess uses him to navigate her way around the house. The scene is very suspenseful and laid out perfectly.

The acting is acceptable from this interesting cast. Many of the actors in the film haven't been seen in awhile. So it was refreshing to see them again. My favorite performance in the film came from Dylan McDermott, who played Jess's dad. Although he isn't in the film very much, his "down on his luck" character is very believable and probably the only one that we can feel any attachment to in the film.

My gripe with the film concerns everything that was not scary. Every piece of narrative storytelling that is in the film is completely unoriginal. After awhile, I felt like the movie didn't know where it wanted to go and in turn decided to hit every predictable plot point from every other supernatural thriller over the past five years. This unenthusiastic approach from the writers caused a great loss in attachment from the characters. The film even decided to turn almost exactly into Amityville Horror in the third act.

Dylan McDermott and young Ben in a scene from The Messengers.

I was greatly surprised that this was the first PG-13 rated horror film that I had seen since The Ring that I felt like wasn't constricted within the ratings boundaries. The Messengers takes itself very seriously, allowing me to believe that I wasn't missing anything if the film had been rated R. This is a very hard achievement to accomplish. It's usual for a thriller like this to come out and be rated purely for money's sake, and when that happens it shows. I forgot instantly what rating the film was and was able to enjoy the scares the film provided.

Last Word:
Although The Messengers is incredibly predictable, it still delivers enough to keep the audience satisfied. While there is no attachment to almost any characters in the film, I was still able to sit back and enjoy what this movie had to offer me: good scares and edge-of-my-seat tension.

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