The English-language movie debut from hotshot Hong Kong directorial pair Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, The Messengers makes for an interesting and mostly successful mix of good old American ghost story and A-horror thrill-fest.
The Messengers follows the Solomon Family — Denise (Penelope Ann Miller) and Roy (Dylan McDermott), and their children, 15-year-old Jess (Kristen Stewart), and toddler Ben (Evan and Theodore Turner) — from the big city of Chicago to the remote prairies of North Dakota, where they've recently moved to make a new start. Roy wants to raise sunflowers for a living, and since Jess was becoming corrupted by bad influences, the change of pace seems like a great idea… until the ghosts who haunt their isolated home start popping out of the walls, crawling across the ceilings, and hiding in their beds.
Click here to see Horror.com's exclusive interviews with the cast, and to read the theatrical release review.
The DVD has just enough special features — not so many as to numb the senses, but contains basically what you might be interested in knowing about in regards to making the film. The making-of featurettes cover everything from story inception and evolution, to how the Pangs work (they trade-off day by day on the directorial duties, and edit as they go), to how the location was found, and how the creepy special effects were achieved.
The commentary listing simply says it's by actress Kristen Stewart "and guests." Those reduced to the dreaded "guest" lump are: Justin Mulligan, costar; Mark Wheaton, screenwriter; and Bruce Jones, visual effects supervisor.
Early on — in addition to giving away the movie's ending — they reveal that the commentary was recorded after the film came out. I find that helpful to know, because I usually like commentaries with some perspective better than those made before the theatrical bow. Not that there's a lot of looking back or allusions to audience and critical reaction, but it's more interesting than the usual alternative.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell the male voices apart, but everyone chimes in with interesting stories — like the fact that the script was originally written with no supernatural elements whatsoever; that The Pang brothers, coming from Asia, had to be convinced that children's toy tractors could indeed be spooky; that the farm's crows were actually imported from the Eastern Europe set of The Brothers Grimm; and Stewart shares her secrets on how to look scared in several different ways.
While The Messengers does lose a bit of its punch when reduced to the small screen, it's still worth a look for fans of The Pangs (while it's quite apart from their usual fare, you can still spot their flair in the visuals). True, there's really nothing new under these sunflowers, but for those who like a classic haunted old house story, it's a solid rental or purchase bet (out on June 5, 2007).
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson