Something weird is going on in the scary house out in the fields of North Dakota, where mom and dad have moved to make one last go of it, growing sunflowers. The kids can see it but the adults can’t. And so on. The Messengers is a bog standard American haunted-house movie with a twist. The twist is not the casting of a long-legged, tight breasted young Kristen Stewart as a heroine, nor the use of a genuine plank (Dylan McDermott) to play her dad. It’s the decision by producer Sam Raimi to get Hong Kong marvels the Pang brothers to direct. Oxide and Danny Pang struck sparks off the horror genre with The Eye in 2002 and use all The Eye’s whooshing, growling, funny-focus tricks here too. They even reference old favourites like The Innocents, The Birds, Amityville Horror and the Hammer genre for good measure. But, like John Woo before them, in the time it’s taken the Pangs to pitch up in Hollywood, every half decent horror director worth their salt has analysed their rather great early work and made it their own. Sorry, boys, your thunder has been stolen. This isn’t the film’s only problem. The casting of big John Corbett as a handyman who seems happy to work for buttons – the only character in the film who works close to but is not connected with the family, the only character who might be dodgy, in other words – is tantamount to not really bothering to write a proper horror film at all. Which is pretty much what we have here, beneath the gorgeous looks, the fields of sunflowers and those wide open spaces, something that just isn’t that bothered.
© Steve Morrissey 2007