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Ghosts, crows and a farmhouse
The Messengers (DVD)
Member Name: Mac83
The Messengers (DVD)
Advantages: Atmosphere, setting
Disadvantages: The ending
The story is about a family that drive all the way out to North Dakota to move into a farmhouse on an isolated location on a sunflower field. As soon as they arrive and start settling in, the family begin to experience strange things happening within the house and out on the field and the two children of the family (a baby Ben and Jess, played by Kirsten Stewart) see some freaky things which seem sinister enough to be out to cause some harm. And since the parents do not initially see what the kids see, this creates feelings of disbelief and distrust within the family, almost tearing them apart with plenty of tension. So is there actually something supernatural lurking in the house trying to destroy them, or is it all just in the mind...
The beginning: The opening scene features an event that happened in the past - it contains a good amount of suspense, mystery and allows us to feel a little sympathy for what we see happen to its victims which are two little children.This really great start immediately has the viewer interested in the story of what has happened in the house before the family move in and what this ghost (that we don't see) is possibly capable of. It gives the impression that the film is going to carry on with this kind of tone - house haunting. And since we don't get to see the supernatural thing behind the horror in these opening scenes, this in turn just has the effect of keeping us holding on to find out what's behind it. Overall a nice inviting start which at this stage you could only imagine getting better.
The characters: Characters in the film revolve mostly around the four members of the family - plus a farmer. The characters are not the liveliest and maybe it just suits the "serious" tone of film well, but I think if they may have been a little more open, interesting and had more than just one type of emotion, it would have only helped with the plot. Kirsten Stewart's character Jess is supposed to be an under-pressure, troubled teenager. She is the reason why they have come to this remote farmhouse since she has done "something wrong" and so her parents think they need to help sort out her ways. The parents (Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller) seem very uninterested in anybody other than passing the blame on to one another and we start to realise there very little interesting about them characteristically. The baby brother is a mute, and as much as he is cute, he is still really annoying as he plays with a SFX ghoul that crawls up walls and ceiling, thinking it's perfectly normal. He shows no fear, hesitancy or confusion about it and I'm just guessing a normal kid his age would be a little bit taken aback seeing that. When they hire a farmer called Burwell played by John Corbett who shows up pretty much conveniently, he does actually make the story a bit more interesting as we can't really figure him out - is he the good guy, the bad guy?? Overall the characters were okay - they do a good job playing their part but that is not to say that the cast were bad. The cast were great and it's almost as if its not there fault that their roles were the way they were. It generally made them seem very dull, but on the whole they seem to have done the best with what they are given.
The story: As we move in to the film, we learn its a psychological horror more than just a ghost story and as it goes on further into the plot, the story really changes (or looses) its direction. What really ruins the story is near the main bulk once we realise how the film changes for a bizarre idea instead, it then starts to get very predictable and seriously ridiculous. The first half of the film just does not match the second half of the plot. The thing is, the plot seemed to have had great potential to be a good one: It starts off with a family moving into a creepy looking farmhouse and as they settle in, weird things happen - nothing wrong with that and quite interesting....BUT later we get our explanation of why things are happening in the house and what caused "It" to become "trapped" - and at this point it seemed like the story became a bit stuck and got all confused and instead thrown in whatever seemed appropriate and effective and this just made the story feel really clichéd and recycled. All the scares, the supernatural events and everything else that is introduced to give us a scare, might not have been scary enough, but I blame that on the unconvincing poor storyline.
Theme: This film has everything you would expect of a horror film thematically and in terms of the setting I think its great to have all the horror elements of the genre built into it as it just nicely reinforces the creepy atmosphere that we want, in order to be taken away. The only thing is even though its nice to have all those elements, there is nothing original added on top of that to make this film stand out from the others - it just seems to rely on most unoriginal ideas and basically just that only - this doesn't allow the film to stand out much. Either way though, I do like some of the things we get in the film - things such as this secluded and isolated spooky farmhouse, things that go on in the basement of the house that no one can really explain, there are rooms that for some reason remain locked shut (but its odd that no one in the family seems too bothered about gaining an extra room in the house by opening it up), the creaky doors and floors, lot of peering out of the windows expecting ghosts, and too many crows eerily hanging about all over the place behaving strangely - the crows may have been a little bit over the top but it couldn't have actually gone to make the film any worse.
The horror / scares: The thing about "The Messengers" is that although there are no real jump out of your seat scares that are really effective in making a bad story exciting, this one goes for something else that seems to be the most positive thing about it as a whole. It doesn't try desperately to provide viewers exactly want they want out of a haunted house ghost story - and instead it gives us eerie unexplained events or little things happening around the farm and the house that we don't always get explanations to and that in turn gives off that greater sinister tone to it - like the mould growing on the wall or the baby getting out of the cot at night or the drawing of a crow that Jess finds drawn onto the dirty window - all of these we don't really get answers to which makes it quite creepy. Even though these things don't really mess with our heads as viewers, if you were actually in the girl's situation and started to see what she saw, then you would be totally freaked out, and no one really gets a clear answer in the end anyway, which just feels a bit more mysterious. This is why psychological thrillers can be more effective, similar to films like "The Shining" - "The Shining" is not REALLY scary, but there is something really alarming about it, behind all the stuff going on and this film is just like that. So even if you're unlikely to be scared out of your wits by jumpy boo scares, you may find this film is the type of horror you actually prefer instead of the over-used cheap scares we normally get.
Special effects / Visuals: This film relies quite a bit on special effects in some places but the computer generated effects that we do see are clearly average. CGI is used for the ghouls or creatures that crawl the walls and ceiling, that is a really poorly generated image which you will see looks very cartoony and a strange jerky movement - so strange you'd think it was delibrate. There is nothing terrifying visually about them even though you don't get to see them so clearly anyway and there presense on screen is very short. This sometimes means its less scary when we don't get to take in their scary overall look, but in this case, it may been for the best. Special effect is also used for the ghosts that try to grab people in to the basement and these were a lot more convincing than the bad ghouls. Other effects of the attacking crows I thought were great - they were made to look threatening. Visually the film looked really great - the sunflower field looked impressive and the outside of the house was perfectly moody - this all just helped build up the sombre, serious and strange tone and mood of the film.
The ending: There is nothing special about the ending of this film - there are no twists, turns or surprises which may have suited this film really well, and instead we get the answers behind the weird things that had been happening around the house. However explanation does not even make much sense as much as the writers might have thought it would and it just seems to be thrown into the film for the sake of ending it. Either way though, at least we do get answers behind the freaky occurrences in the house, but don't expect too much from it. What might be nice to know is there is a sweet happy ending to this story so there is something to look forward to...
I don't think this film is as bad as it has been made out to be but there are things that could have been better about it- like the ending and maybe opening up the characters a bit more, allowing them more emotion in order for the viewer to enjoy the story better. Other than that though, this horror film is as simple as any other haunted house movie - more or less. The scares are less frequent and there is hardly any blood or gore which does not suit all horror films anyway. The main thing is "The Messengers" definitely is entertaining and enjoyable, it's not too lengthy and has reasonably likeable actors. The only other thing is that the title of this film sounds a lot more menacing and interesting than the actual reality and explanation of it.
So basically, it's definitely worth a watch as long as you are not expecting a massive deal out of it - remember no twists or turns here, just a mediocre story and a brilliant setting and strong cast.
Summary: Good film, with a bad ending