The Messengers (2007)
Get your popcorn horror lovers, we’re approaching that time of year: Horror Movie Season! ?
Join me as we sit back and watch The Messengers (2007) and review it in an entirely too thorough manner. SPOILERS AHEAD!
I’ll be honest, from the moment I started this movie, I was wondering why is it called “The Messengers.” Let’s see if they explain it later.
The movie opens with an atmospherically creepy house and what appears to be a family frantically packing. While the black & white visuals made it very obvious that we are witnessing a flashback and the set-up for the film, it felt like a cheap artistic cop-out in a “Medium” episode.
Opening credits (The Messengers, 2007)
I did wonder as we watched the tear-streaked face of a miserable child why we watch this kind of smut in the first place. I’m hypothesizing that the “Terrible Awful” is none other than one abusive male figure, turned by the mind of the miserable child into a perceived or imagined monster. It is interesting to see the themes of domestic abuse through the eyes of an innocent child, and the opening credits reinforce this idea by giving a brief and disorienting “tour” through the house, up the banister at child height.
Spooky Banister (The Messengers, 2007)
The idea that a small child could witness abuse or domestic violence and interpret it as an evil, supernatural monster or power is wholly believable and makes me wonder how an adult who is the survivor of childhood trauma could reevaluate some of their long held beliefs and perceptions of the world based on the coding of their child-memory formed based on their child-perception of real, life threatening events…
In other words, my theory is that what the kid saw terrorizing his mother and sister was, in fact, just his father and not a ghost, monster, or demon.
The Moving Scene (The Messengers, 2007)
As we enter the present day, the opening is so generic it left me seriously asking myself if I’d actually already watched this movie and simply forgotten, making this movie so remarkably unmemorable as to be unbearably dull.
Enter my favorite part of most horror movies: The Moving Scene.
Here we almost always witness a family, broken in some way, moving across the country with their entire lives trailing behind them.
They almost always consist of some amalgamation of the disillusioned American family:
1. An angsty teenager who “misses all their friends back home.” ✓
2. A cute child, somewhat younger who is either here to make jokes and lighten the mood or to be used as a plot device later. ✓
3. A frazzled maternal figure who is either grieving a significant loss or “just trying to make a fresh start.” (see The Lost Boys, or The Haunting in Connecticut) ✓
4. And sometimes we get either an “old dad” who takes the place of #3 above, or a “new dad” who is constantly trying to prove his place in the family. (ala The Amityville Horror) ✓
It’s so predictible as to be dependable and it’s one of the reasons I love horror movies in the first place. The Messengers does not disappoint me there.
Obviously Haunted House (The Messengers, 2007)
Next we get our first looks at what should be the main character of our story: The Haunted House. If done correctly, our protagonist (Kristen Stewart’s “Jess”) will get to know the character of this house as we the audience are getting to know Jess. The Shining is an obvious good example of making the house or hotel a living, breathing character and if done successfully will add to the creep factor. ?
Unfortunately, I agree with Rotten Tomatoes review of this movie, especially when it comes to this missed opportunity: “The Messengers is an atmospheric but derivative rip-off of countless other horror movies” … and not in a good way.
Atmospheric yet derivative
Next we have moving boxes, the settling in period, and the “noticing something’s off” with the house. This is Horror Formula 101.
At a certain point we are depending on character and the actors who deliver said character to make us give a shit. And so far everyone in this movie is rubbing me the wrong way.
The mom, Denise, is obviously a neurotic bitch who has a serious beef with Jess for some undisclosed reason.
Ben, the child, is too young to be anything but a prop.
Jess’ angst act is anemic and tired and K-Stew’s inability to react to the creepy stimuli in the house makes it difficult for us, the audience, to react to it either. This renders the tepid attempts at atmospheric horror completely flat and 14 minutes into this movie I’m begging them to get to the point!
Unpacking all the family baggage (The Messengers, 2007)
A look of sheer terror (The Messengers, 2007)
They’re heeeere? (The Messengers, 2007)
And everything about Roy from the moment we see him screams “HE DID IT!!” to me. He has all the “endearing 5 o’clock shadow cool dad sociopath” vibes necessary to set him up for the “Big Plot Twist” later, mark my words.
Oh, and now I understand why Ben is the way Ben is: he’s a plot device.
The whole “child can see & interact with ghosts” thing was done better in Poltergeist, Hide & Seek, or The Amityville Horror where the family dynamics are way more believable and fleshed out than The Messengers. But then, I’m not one of those “kids are inherently creepy” horror-fans and I personally believe they should be used sparingly as a plot device.
Tired plot, tired characters
I’m once again asking myself if I’ve already seen this movie and blocked it out to make room for better movies…
The Love Interest (The Messengers, 2007)
Aaaaand enter the “new love interest.” Usually a golden-retriever like “sporty guy” who is the local heartthrob that all the girls (particularly the local cheer bitch) have their eyes on who meanwhile gets his head turned by the “mysterious, angsty new girl.”
So far Bobby fits the bill perfectly, but looks like it takes more than basketball skills to impress our vapid vixen.
Or…maybe that’s just K-Stew’s face.
Are we actually getting somewhere?
When Roy, who clearly has no idea what he’s doing, has a run in with some crows (played in the movie by ravens) he is rescued by gun-toting Burwell, played by John Corbett. Here is the “eccentric yet creepy” guy who probably “knows things” and can either get us more information about the house, be the real bad-guy, or be the savior like the Huntsman in the Little Red Riding Hood stories. My money at this point is on the latter because Roy strikes me as the border-line psychopath ready to snap at any second.
Roy hires the rando-with-the-shot-gun on the spot and Burwell immediately insinuates himself into the family.
Actually ravens but the characters say “crows” (The Messengers, 2007)
John Corbett’s character to save the day? (The Messengers, 2007)
The kids like him, must be safe. (The Messengers, 2007)
We can add “good with kids” to Burwell’s resume because the kids instantly take a shine to him. I presume this is meant to be a red herring because this is exactly the type of behavior you’d expect from a serial killer later on. I’m hoping this is a misdirect and that we can count on Burwell to later save the day.
Even our lackluster leading lady likes him. Is that a genuine smile?
Hard to tell but close enough.
Can’t leave ’em alone for a minute
Boy, can’t leave the kids alone for a minute without them throwing poltergeist ragers and whatnot.
Against Penelope Ann Miller’s better judgement, Ben get’s left in Jess’ hands while the parents head out. We’re not even halfway through the movie and we are dialling it up to 11 as the house throws a full on conniption, driving Jess to call 911. Meanwhile, Ben is lured to his death…
Just kidding, that’s different, more interesting movie.
Ben’s connection to the house lures JESS to her death… no wait, that’s another different, more interesting movie… just kidding again.
Oh but wait… to make matters worse, Jess is actually just losing it… because nothing actually happened. Too bad she already called the cops. Queue the parental disapprove and a perfect opportunity to reveal important character backstory here.
Another look of sheer, unmitigated terror (The Messengers, 2007)
It was him! HE DID IT!! (The Messengers, 2007)
Big Bad Evil Girl? (The Messengers, 2007)
A genuine reaction to her parents’ doubt? (The Messengers, 2007)
SPOILER ALERT: THE BBEG
Also. We’re halfway through the movie and already they’re doing a BBEG reveal? This is really a pet peeve of mine. I much prefer the style of Jeepers Creepers, or Alien, which play a sort of cat-and-mouse game with the audience. Dropping us hints here and there but letting our imaginations do the work for us.
Based on this reveal, I’m guessing my original theory of “the husband did it” is correct judging from this woman’s shot-gun-like wound… dun dun dun? Lame.
Okay moving on…
After Jess gets in trouble for calling the cops, K-Stew gives us what may be her first and only genuine reaction in this film.
But it’s a wasted opportunity for revelation because they continue to tease us with hints dropped about Jess, Ben, and medical bills. All of which makes me think Jess might actually have a condition?
In my opinion, foreplay belongs in the bedroom and not in character development. They are losing me fast and we are just over halfway through.
What’s happening to me?
Why am I still watching this?
After several more “crazy run ins,” Jess confides in Burwell, who seems a little too interested and I’m suddenly getting baddie vibes. Maybe he was the original “husband” from the black and white intro… or maybe this scene is a red herring… or maybe I need another cold beverage.
Jess’ visions of ghosts are escalating however, and eventually will land her in the hospital, where we miss ANOTHER good opportunity to reveal that important character backstory.
Disappointing heart-to-heart with the doctor, The Messengers (2007)
Ah the turn. It must be coming soon. The big reveal of why this family is so broken in the first place.
But first Jess is gonna plead her case while Roy accuses her of hurting herself for attention while Denise cries in the backseat.
Later, while Jess is sulking upstairs, Roy lets slip that there was another offer on the house and they could’ve gone back to Chicago. So Denise loses her shit in response. Turns out she didn’t really want to be here, she was just supporting her man, whose “gentle facade” is now slipping. Can I say I called it yet?
Why won’t you believe me? (The Messengers, 2007)
We could’ve moved back to Chicago?? (The Messengers, 2007)
Why? (The Messengers, 2007)
Shoulda done this 40 minutes ago (The Messengers, 2007)
SPOILER ALERT: Finally the big reveal
Following a lead, Jess hitches a ride with golden-retriever Bobby. Finally, FINALLY. With one little word, home boy wrestles the truth out of this unforthright family.
“My parents won’t listen to me” says Jess.
“Why?” says Bobby.
And the deep dark comes spilling out.
One word: Alcohol. I need more of it.
Anyways, it explains what happened, their tense family dynamic, and why Ben won’t speak.
Outside, Burwell gives new meaning to “A murder of crows.”
Sadly, I was wrong about the heroic huntsman. Ah well.
Upstairs, Denise realizes that maybe Jess isn’t just “attention-seeking after all. Her revelation leads her to start packing her shit.
Meanwhile, a discovery at the feed store leads Jess (and the audience) to believe the family is in grave danger, so she and puppy-eyes Bobby rush home to save the day.
As everything comes to a head, Burwell has his own “revelations” (get it?) and turns into Jesus?
Just kidding. The religious imagery here is totally out of place given we haven’t had a single non-secular section of this movie.
None the less, finally I can say: Called it on the opening.
In the final showdown with the real BBEG, K-Stew’s face says it all as she delivers a scintillating line:
“We’re not your family!” as Burwell’s own dearly departed family sucks him into a hole in the cellar.
Jesus is that you? (The Messengers, 2007)
Another look of abject terror? (The Messengers, 2007)
As the crows fly away, it’s clear that the Solomon family can heal and move on as Ben sends them off with a “Birdies!” and Jess man-splains to us that “Maybe they can rest now.”
Since the birds were such an obvious theme of the movie, shouldn’t they have used pigeons? I don’t know that crows were really known for their “Messenger” abilities.
Thanks for watching
However, it turns out that the original script by Todd Farmer was supposed to be called The Scarecrow. Personally, this would’ve been a much better title and judging from the movie I just saw, a better script as well. Multiple rewrites to The Scarecrow rendered us the film we just reviewed and clearly did nothing good for it.
Fortunately, Farmer’s original script survived in The Messengers 2: The Scarecrow. And I think I’ll give it a watch, because it can’t possibly be worse than The Messengers.
Crow, played by a raven (The Messengers, 2007)
If, after all this, you’re still interested in watching this movie: It’s available on Amazon Prime.
Or just watch the trailer on YouTube: