As yet another hit-and-run haunted-house flick, The Messengers marks the Hollywood debut of Asian horror specialists Danny and Oxide Pang.
Say, have you heard the one about the troubled family that forsakes the trials and tribulations of city life for a bucolic new life on a rustic farm out in the middle of nowhere? It's never a good idea to move into a house when the previous residents of said farm vanished without a traceand it's still not a good idea here. Soon teenager Jess (Kristen Stewart) and her three-year-old brother begin seeing ominous apparitions invisible to everyone else. When those specters become violent, Jess' sanity is questioned--a double jeopardy for the tormented teen.
Stewart, Jodie Foster's endangered daughter in Panic Room, is appropriately moody and plucky as the terrorized teen whom no one believes. Penelope Ann Miller and Dylan McDermott are both suitably dense as Mom and Dad, with twins Evan and Theodore Turner suitably spooky as the wide-eyed baby brother who can see everything. X-Files regular William B. Davis, sans cigarette, drops in a couple of times as the local real-estate agent, and a grizzled John Corbett plays a shotgun-toting farm hand who the family hires with surprisingly little hesitation. There's only so much the actors can do with the material, and they pretty much do it.
Directors Danny and Oxide Pang, veterans of such popular Asian scarefests as The Eye and Ab-normal Beauty, know their way around a scare, and The Messengers has some decent jolts along the way. Ultimately, however, the peskiest of all problems the plot tends to get in the way. As the story pieces fall into place, the film itself tends to fall apart. In addition, this is yet another horror film that has been given a box-office-friendlier PG-13 rating (in the February issue of Fangoria, co-star Corbett makes his displeasure known about this issue). This is the Pang brothers' first stateside project, and despite their stylistic touches, there's an unmistakable sense of selling out.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 1/2 stars.