Though Sam Raimi might be responsible for some of the most defining and popular genre films in cinematic history, as a producer his production company Ghost House has yet to put out a true critical success. The Messengers, directed by Asian horror sensations Danny and Oxide Pang, seemed to have all the ingredients to make it the first Ghost House production to not only be commercially successful, but a well rounded movie to boot.
Bringing their signature visual style which made The Eye such a smash hit around the globe, the Pang brothers are the next of the Asian horror directors to take a stab at the American market. However, unlike their brethren, who typically remade their far superior foreign horror films for big budget Hollywood studios, the Pang brothers had the chance to bring a completely new story to the screen with high production value.
While the marketing for The Messengers has been less than stellar, what was intriguing about the project was the fact that it appeared to be nothing more than a movie about a creaky, old haunted house. While too many horror films these days, especially the ones adapted from the Asian market, focus on dense storylines involving murders and vengeful ghosts, the latest Ghost House production seemed to have a far simpler premise.
For the first hour, this basic story of a family uprooted from the city, hoping to start over by moving into an abandoned farm house in rural America works beautifully. All the groans and gorgeously lit camera angles in the Pang brothers’ haunted house makes The Messengers absolutely terrifying, literally working towards being the best American horror film since The Ring. However when the sixty minute mark hits, The Messengers takes a steep nose dive towards mediocrity.
What went from being simple and refreshingly original takes a sharp turn, mimicking nearly all the recent trends in modern horror. While many will peg the use of the fast moving, corpse-like children as a rip-off of The Grudge, they would be sadly mistaken, for it was the Pang brothers who first used this now familiar, ghoulish look for their ghosts in The Eye series.
However the title of The Messengers should be taken absolutely literally when approaching the film. We can’t have a simple haunted house movie where the ghosts just want to scare the living daylights out of the new tenants these days. No, since all modern horror films need ghosts that have an agenda and an injustice that needs to be rectified, The Messengers should too.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t moments in The Messengers which will send chills down audiences spines. Using the simple rule of thumb which many suspense filmmakers abide by, the Pang brothers certainly give us very little visually, allowing the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps. Through the use of intriguing shots, including a slight homage to the Evil Dead series, plus a brilliant, Spielberg-like use of children, the Pang brothers have created some truly bone-chilling suspense.
It is too bad The Messengers decidedly borrows from recent horror adaptations and remakes like The Ring, The Grudge and Amityville Horror, because the Pang brothers start the first sixty minutes out with a refreshing change. At one point in The Messengers it seemed as if Raimi had finally produced a project through Ghost House that would be both financially and critically successful. However with its convoluted finale, The Messengers disappointingly remains one horror film which I almost highly recommended.
– Joe Russo, MoviePulse