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Special sneak previews are always a good time. No matter what movie it is you are seeing, people will always pack the theatre who have been awaiting the film, like free stuff, thought it’d be something to do, or just got lost. Either way, no matter how good or bad the film, the audience alone will make it enjoyable. Now when said movie is a PG-13 pseudo-horror film (can you really delve into horror when the MPAA is on your back censoring everything?) you know there will be chatter, laughing, and breath holding. With The Messengers, the crowd did not disappoint giving numerous outbursts and warnings to the characters onscreen. As for the actual movie, I feel sorry for those involved because it really could have been much better had it been paced right and allowed to stretch its legs beyond the scare/fade-to-black/show aftermath progression these films have. In the end we are shown a boring, plodding story with no surprises and few moments of actual suspense.

The story is a common one. A family moves from the big city to the country after a traumatic event to try and rebuild their relationship with each other. Once settled in, the spirits of the house come out to the reformed troublemaker child whose past makes it even easier for the parents to disbelieve everything told to them. Of course the child is not crying wolf and those around only find out when it is too late. I will credit the Pang Brothers, (directors of the acclaimed The Eye that I would like to watch more than before to see what they can do without Hollywood interference—supposedly reshoots on The Messengers were done by someone else, but the brothers retained credit; it’s a shame what our studio system does to foreigners especially when it was creative independence which made the films that brings them in and not bottomline interference), for really having a fitting style and for keeping the tired plotline somewhat fresh. Unfortunately, though, I also must give them credit for the almost unbearable slowness. Similar to why I disliked What Lies Beneath, I couldn’t stand the drawn out suspense, which goes so far as to make it laughable. When our heroine and her brother stand in a hallway with a ghost behind them, the scene lasts about eight minutes with just static, oddly composed close-ups and depth of field focus changes to end up culminating to absolutely nothing. For being only 84 minutes, I almost think it would have worked better even shorter.

Besides a very effective opening sequence, featuring the fantastic Jodelle Ferland, (strangely playing a boy), and a great atmospheric credit sequence, the only thing that saves the film from utter garbage is the acting. Except for Penelope Ann Miller, who first made me wonder what ever happened to her and then, after a few scenes, made me understand why I never asked that question in the years she was absent, and Dustin Milligan, completely lacking in credibility, the acting is very strong. Dyan McDermott does a nice job as the father trying to keep his family together through all the tough times. He has many little moments of light comedy to counteract his serious, dramatic role. William B. Davis (everyone’s favorite Cancerman) is used effectively as an almost foreboding character, sadly not utilized more. Our true stars are Kristen Stewart and John Corbett. Stewart plays the emotion very well and shows some promise as an actress with this and Panic Room on her resume. As for Corbett, if he didn’t pull off his role, the entire movie would have unraveled completely. I do wish he would be given more work as I’ve enjoyed him since the underappreciated series “The Visitor”—I still need to check out his first role in “Northern Exposure,” a show I haven’t yet been able to catch up on. It’s a shame he will probably be most recognizable for the overrated My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

If anything, The Messengers gave me a nice introduction to the Pang Brothers’ work and reinvigorated my desire to check out their Chinese horror catalog. The mood and performances were there; it was just the simple and vacant story that needed way too much padding to make a feature film. If they delved more into other characters, rather than just Stewart’s, it could have been more effective while also having something more to show then ten minute scenes of nothing. If our protagonist is the only one being attacked, there is no suspense as to how far the creatures will go to harm her. The moments of danger had no gravity to them and until the ending really just stood in as filler. I am excited, however, for the free comic book given away after the special screening, as hopefully the medium will allow for a faster paced story that engrosses before it tries to surprise.

The Messengers 3/10

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photography:
[1] Kristen Stewart and Evan/Theo Turner star in Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems and Ghost House Pictures’ new thriller THE MESSENGERS. Photo by: Takashi Seida
[2] John Corbett stars in Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems and Ghost House Pictures’ new thriller THE MESSENGERS. Photo by: Takashi Seida

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