Mark Wheaton (Screenplay), Todd Farmer (Story)
The Pang Brothers
Kristen Stewart as Jess
Dylan McDermott as Roy
Penelope Ann Miller as Denise
John Corbett as Burwell
The Pang Brothers have gained quite a bit of renown for their horror movies. Born in Hong Kong, Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, rocketed to notoriety with the 2002 film The Eye, notable for dark images and genuinely creepy scares.
The first English-language horror entry by the Pang Brothers is The Messengers. Produced by Sam Raimi ( The Evil Dead) The Messengers is a credible addition to the ghost story horror genre.
The Messengers begins with a family driving to the country from their prior home in Chicago. The move is a significant one, taking city-folk to the landscape of South Dakota to try their hand at sunflower farming.
Early on it is clear that there is something wrong with daughter Jess (Stewart). Mother (Miller) snaps at her and generally treats her like she can’t be trusted at all. This is unfortunate for Jess, because once in the house she starts seeing furniture moving and things crashing to the floor from shelves by themselves, and nobody believes her but the youngest child Ben (played by identical twins Evan and Theodore Turner). In The Messengers Ben sees things…and is often caught following some unseen specter around the house with wonder and amazement in his eyes.
The final player in the story is Burwell (John Corbett), a drifter that happens upon the hapless farmers and agrees to work the land in exchange for room and board…until the first harvest. Burwell is a likeable chap, but strikes Jess as a bit strange when he apparently witnesses some of the strange happenings in the house and then later claims that he saw nothing.
The Messengers is a great ghost story with lots of creepy scenes where unseen specters reach out at members of the household while they look on oblivious. The images are intense and dark – taking many elements so popular in creepy Asian horror and toning them down a bit for American audiences. Aficionados of Asian horror will recognize several of the techniques and complain that they are not intense as those used in the Asian flicks they love…while those accustomed to the American brand of ghost story will likely be struck by the intensity and scariness of the images and be squirming in their seats.
An interesting and innovative twist on the typical ghost-story formula in The Messengers is the use of light – stark bright daylight. We are accustomed to “things that go bump in the night”, but The Pang Brothers throw all of that out the window by turning daylight, both outdoors and indoors, into a realm for violent and horrific ghostly rantings. It is often taken for granted that the scariest things are those that we do not see, that can sneak up on us in the darkness. The Messengersshows us all that things we can see are just as scary, if not more so. Daytime is no longer safe as the monsters in The Messengers do not discriminate between nighttime and the open light of day.