The Messengers 1 & 2
The Messengers (June 13/07)
Saddled with a toothless PG-13 rating and a shockingly uneventful screenplay, The Messengers quickly establishes itself as the latest in a long line of atmospheric yet thoroughly dull modern horror flicks. Oxide and Danny Pang's efforts to liven things up with brief bursts of style prove fruitless, as Mark Wheaton's screenplay is just irredeemably uneventful and - ultimately - hopelessly derivative (the third act is essentially The Shining set in a farmhouse). The film's plot - which follows a dysfunctional family as they move into a country home that's clearly haunted - generally doesn't have much to offer in terms of surprises, although there are a few admittedly interesting touches here and there (ie the central character, Kristen Stewart's Jess, starts to wonder if she's losing her mind when it's revealed that nobody else can see the ghosts). But Wheaton simply proves unwilling (or unable) to offer up anything even resembling a compelling storyline; by the time the film essentially morphs into a bad afterschool special, with Jess becoming increasingly mopey over the fact that nobody believes her, there's little doubt that The Messengers has become a particularly egregious example of everything that's wrong with contemporary horror.
Messengers 2: The Scarecrow
Though a prequel to the 2007 original, Messengers 2: The Scarecrow suffers from many of the problems that plagued its predecessor - including an emphasis on hopelessly hackneyed plot elements and an egregiously laid-back pace that exacerbates the movie's myriad of deficiencies. The storyline follows hard-working corn grower John Rollins (Norman Reedus) as he attempts to support his family and his farm in the face of several seemingly insurmountable obstacles, with trouble ensuing after the scarecrow John installs to protect his crops becomes a progressively sinister force - to the extent that it eventually starts to threaten the well-being of his wife (Heather Stephens' Mary) and two children (Claire Holt's Lindsey and Laurence Belcher's Michael). There's little doubt that Messengers 2: The Scarecrow fares best in its promising opening half hour, as director Martin Barnewitz effectively pairs the movie's creepy visuals with a slow-building atmosphere of dread and even offers up a few appreciatively gruesome kill sequences. Screenwriter Todd Farmer's far-from-fresh approach to the material slowly but surely negates the film's positive attributes, however, and it's hard to deny that the scripter's pervasive reliance on excessively familiar ghost-movie conventions ultimately drains the proceedings of its energy and momentum. And although Reedus admittedly does deliver a better-than-expected performance, the actor's efforts at transforming his character into a sympathetic figure generally fall flat - which certainly proves effective at dulling the impact of the film's The Shining-inspired third act. The final result is an endeavor that's about on the same level as its underwhelming predecessor, although - to be fair - the movie is a slight cut above the majority of its nigh unwatchable DTV-sequel brethren.