Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Messengers

posted by jmiller
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing violence and terror.
Profanity:Brief strong language
Nudity/Sex:Reference to Kama Sutra
Alcohol/Drugs:Reference to drunk driving
Violence/Scariness:Supernatural references, images, and violence, some disturbing, domestic violence
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:2007
DVD Release Date:2007

The trailers for “The Messengers” don’t do it justice —
there’s a lot more potential in this movie than appears in the
Grudge- and The Omen-like snippets shown as teasers. The idea isn’t bad. It’s in living up
to this potential that the film slips from an enjoyable, somewhat
innocuous PG-13 fright fest (on par with Signs and The Twilight Zone)
to a dead-end dragger with way too much buildup for the minimal reveal.


At the center of the story is Jess Solomon (Kristen
Stewart), who moves with her mother, father and little
brother from Chicago to the farmlands of North Dakota. As the parents
(played by Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller) continually hint,
Jess has some growing up to do — after being teased for what seems
like decades, audiences finally learn that 6 months prior, Jess was tipsy when got into an accident with her brother in the
car, which lead not only to obvious strife in the family but also to
the family’s savings being spent on medical bills for the toddler. His only remaining effect from the injuries is a reluctance to speak. How Original. That fact alone should tell you all you need to know about the big
finale.

The family is moving to make a fresh start, and what better
place than a rickety abandoned structure that despite being
surrounded by sunny fields remains perpetually in shadow.


As the father, McDermott seems content to act as if the
role of dad could be accomplished by simply directing the phrases
“We’ve got to make this work,” “That’s what I’m talking
about,” and “I love you sport,” to his wife, guy friend, and
daughter, respectively. He is determined to deny all the signs of a
family about to enter a horror movie, in favor of proving that he can
do it — he can run the farm, he can hold the family together, he can
be completely oblivious to every bad omen possible cliche.


By the time all the family secrets are revealed,
however, hints about the family’s past — Jess’s “mistake”
especially — have been hinted at so much that the satisfaction of
finally being told is outweighed by both resentment for
having been teased and (in “mistake’s” case) distaste at the
seriousness of the offense. This pattern of excessively long, drawn
out teases followed by anticlimactic unveilings and ultimate
disappointment is not, to put it diplomatically, limited to this one
instance.


As Jess begins to experience haunting that only she and
her little brother perceive, the film shows glimpses of
promise. The intensity of the suspense and creepy images and the intensified trust issues between Jess and her parents lies a glimmer of a better film. The
shock at realizing that walls torn apart, lamps broken and windows
shattered reassemble miraculously before the mother and father return
home is thrilling in a surreal, psychological way, bringing not only
ghosts and ghouls to the table but dream-like mind games as well.
Given this and a few moments of strategic misdirection, and it’s
refreshing to see a horror film that tries to get its shocks from plot twists rather
than gore. But ultimately, these messengers show up empty-handed.


Parents should know that characters refer to driving
under the influence, and the opening scenes depict a mother and
daughter being beaten by an invisible force while a young son looks
on in terror. There are moments of suspense and some
frightening and disturbing images of ghosts. Most of the film’s
violence stems from the spirit world, but there are several instances
of living characters directing violence at one another. Keeping the
film well under the R-rating radar, however, the language is tame and
sexual content limited to a bad pun on the Kama Sutra.


Families who see this film should talk about the
importance of trust between parents and children. Jess tells a peer
that when her parents asked her to pick up her brother and drive him
home, she was afraid to tell them she had been drinking with friends
(and thus made the incredible mistake of going to pick up her brother
while still under the influence). Why does staying silent about
having been drinking betray her parents’ trust? Could Jess have
trusted her parents to respect her honesty if she told them the truth
about not being able to drive, even if it meant facing their
disappointment in her decision to drink?


Families who enjoy this film might also enjoy Poltergeist and the
classic television series The Twilight Zone — the complete series is now available on DVD. Families will also be
interested in the work of M. Night Shyamalan, the director behind thrillers featuring children
Signs and The Sixth Sense, and might also explore the previous work
of Danny and Oxide Pang, twin brothers who only recently Americanized
their angle after being active in the Hong Kong filmmaking world for
nearly a decade.



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