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The Messengers
Year: 2007
Kristen Stewart
Director: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang Fat
Producer: Sam Raimi, William Sherak, Jason Shuman, Robert G. Tapert
Writer: Todd Farmer, Mark Wheaton
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, John Corbett, Evan Turner, Theodore Turner, William B. Davis, Brent Briscoe, Dustin Milligan
The Skinny: The Pang Brothers go to Hollywood and the audience snores. Sometimes scary, but mostly not. Style isn't everything, and in this case, it's even less than that.
by Kozo:

The Pang Brothers invade Hollywood with The Messengers, a sometimes tense but mostly useless horror film that hopefully won't prevent people from searching out the directors' earlier work. Kristen Stewart stars as Jess Solomon, a troubled teen who moves with her family to North Dakota to begin life on a sunflower farm. Dad (Dylan McDermott) has everything riding on his new sunflower initiative, and has brought Jess, his wife (Penelope Ann Miller), and infant son Ben (Evan Turner), who's oddly quiet for a toddler of his age. Hint: this means something.

The farm is spacious and peaceful, but little things are off. Strange noises are heard everywhere in the creaky old house, plus there's a suspicious stain on the wall that just won't go away, and crows swam all over the farm like extras from The Birds. Soon it becomes apparent: the Solomons aren't alone in the house, and it seems only Jess and Ben can see them. How long before the previous tenants of Casa de Solomon decide to kick out the new tenants? And will a pale woman with long black hair show up just like in nearly every other Pang Brothers film in existence?

If you've seen the commercials for this obligatory exercise in pseudo-Asian horror, then you'll know the truth: yes, we get a ghastly pale woman with long black hair moving verrrrry slowly through the air while our heroes start to freak out. The Pangs pull out the arsenal of Asian horror film tricks - loud shock cuts, quiet suspense, pale spectres of doom moving in an insect-like fashion - and for a while, it seems to work. The North Dakota (actually Canada) location feels simultaneously lovely, isolated, and creepy, and at the very least seems like an intriguing location for the tried-and-true Asian Horror tropes.

However, whatever novelty that arises from the "Pang Brothers in Middle America" setup disappears when the film attempts to throw a story at us. You see, there's this whole thing going on about how Jess once did something bad back in Chicago that deteriorated the trust between she and her family, so when she sees the ghosts, they don't believe her, leading to more mistrust, family squabbles, boring plot exposition, and more filler than a 50 cent hot dog. The generous ad copy version: the Solomons are a family on the brink of falling apart, and the ghosts will either bring them together or further tear them apart. The short version: there's a story, but it's not very interesting or well-develeoped, and the directors occasionally try to scare us. If you just stifled a yawn, then you're in good company.

First, the good stuff: the location is fine, the tension sometimes adequate, and Kristen Stewart makes a fetching freak-out victim. However, there's far more bad than good here. First of all, the film has an unconvincing and unremarkable story. The Solomon family's issues are revealed late in the picture, but the family is so uninteresting and unlikeable that their problems barely register once the audience discovers them. The suspense is adequate at first, but since this is PG-13 suspense the filmmakers can't push the envelope very much, ultimately making the film a series of overused scare tactics.

The film's big reveal is also fairly predictable, and doesn't carry much weight. The script has the opportunity to relate its characters to the horrors they face, but the resulting connections are superficial or nonexistent, and don't resonate at all. There's some decent imagery, and the Pangs do demonstrate their knack for building suspense. However, there's no payoff, either emotionally or cinematically, leaving the film nothing more than a limp diversion for teens looking for a Friday night distraction. Everyone involved here has done better work, especially the Pang Brothers, whose post-Eye output seems to favor style over substance. The Messengers represents the nadir of that trend, and will hopefully be known one day as the worst Pang Brothers film ever. And if The Messengers isn't their worst film, then we may choose to give up on them. (Kozo 2007)

Notes: • Reportedly, The Messengers underwent reshoots without the Pang Brothers, who likely had little hand in the film's final cut. So, the resulting quality of the film may not entirely be their fault.
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
English Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS-ES
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Extras
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