***1/2 (out of 5)
February 2, 2007
Kristen Stewart as JESS
Dylan McDermott as ROY
Penelope Ann Miller as DENISE
John Corbett as BURWELL
Evan and Theodore Turner as BEN
William B. Davis as COLBY PRICE
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Danny and Oxide Pang
BY KEVIN CARR
Over the past few years – ever since the American release of “The Ring” – there has been a glut of Asian horror films in this country. I don’t have a problem with Asian horror at all. In fact, these films are often visually stunning and think completely outside of the box the American horror makers have been in for years.
However, the films blow hot and cold. While there are awesome films like “The Ring” and “The Grudge,” there are also mediocre films like “Cold Water” and “Pulse.” And inevitably, there are the worst of the bunch with sequels to both “The Ring” and “The Grudge.”
“The Messengers” is the latest stab at Asian American horror by Hollywood. Directed by Hong Kong twin brothers Danny and Oxide Pang, “The Messengers” is their first American production since the import of “The Eye” brought them to prominence in the horror community.
While “The Messengers” isn’t the greatest horror movie ever made, and it definitely doesn’t break as much new ground as “The Ring” or “The Grudge,” it’s still a pretty decent show. The imagery is incredible, and the suspense is top notch. There’s plenty of things I’ve seen in other Asian horror films, like ghostly children crawling up the walls and such, but the Pang brothers have managed to treat it with a little more originality than other films have in the past.
The movie tells the story of a Chicago family that has relocated to North Dakota so the father (Dylan McDermott) can run a sunflower farm. The daughter Jess (Kristen Stewart) isn’t happy about the move, but she’s stuck due to some trouble she’s had in the past that is keeping her parents on top of her. The young son Ben (Evan and Theodore Turner) has some emotional issues and doesn’t talk. However, he is the only one able to see the ghostly specters that haunt their new home.
Jess also encounters the specters, first as unseen poltergeists then as horrible manifestations. Her parents don’t believe her when she tells them. They just think she’s trying to give them an excuse to leave North Dakota completely. However, things get more and more intense the longer they live there, endangering the whole family.
I don’t expect “The Messengers” to break any records, but for the run-of-the-mill winter release, I’ve seen a lot worse. Just think of the barrage of terrible horror movies we’ve been subjected to for the past three years. Taking this into account, “The Messengers” definitely floats to the top.
Ultimately, the film takes its time and only crumbles with the conclusion. The acting is pretty well done by the ensemble assembled. Kristen Stewart, whom many will recognize as Jodie Foster’s daughter in “Panic Room,” is definitely a face to watch in the coming years. She’s pretty much able carry the whole film on her shoulders.
Other decent performances include a surprisingly well constructed character of the farm hand by John Corbett. However, genre fans will enjoy seeing Cancer Man William B. Davis return to the screen as the smarmy bank representative.
Like many suspense films, this movie’s strength is in its build up rather than its conclusion. To be honest, the ending of the movie doesn’t quite live up to the rest, but it doesn’t negate it’s worth. In fact, the first half is very well done, making it one of the best haunted house movies since “The Grudge.” Still, it’s not exactly going to go down as a classic.