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The Solomon family has left the fast paced life of Chicago for the secluded world of a North Dakota farm. Amidst the tranquil sway of the farm's field of sunflowers, Jess, 16, soon realizes how terrifying seclusion can be when she and her brother Ben, 3, begin seeing ominous apparitions invisible to everyone else. When those specters become violent, Jess' sanity is questioned — a double jeopardy for the tormented teen. Her troublesome past comes face to face with the past of those who once lived in the house, a perilous confrontation that leaves her believability in question with those she desperately tries to warn before it is too late.
For more about The Messengers and the The Messengers Blu-ray release, see the The Messengers Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 8, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, John Corbett, Evan Turner, Tatiana Maslany
Directors: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang
» See full cast & crew
The Messengers Blu-ray Review
The message is clear: 'The Messengers' features exceptional A/V quality.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 8, 2009
You see them too...
Is there anything more self-defeating than a PG-13 Horror movie? Granted, Horror isn't about gore, and it's certainly not about language or nudity, but the trend in recent years to water films down for wider audiences has been only, for the most part, to the detriment of the genre. For every The Ring there are dozens of films like One Missed Call, The Eye, and The Messenger. It's the latter that's the focus here, a prototypical PG-13 jump scare Horror film that surpasses much of the dreck churned out in the name of packing teenagers into the theater in recent years, but by the conclusion of the brisk 90 minute runtime, there's little that makes this one the least bit memorable. Directors Danny and Oxide Pang (The Eye, Bangkok Dangerous, Re-Cycle) have crafted a passable pseudo-Horror picture in The Messengers, playing by the rules and never going above and beyond the call of duty, crafting a passable time waster with a few good elements that cancel out the bad, the result a wash of a picture that's neither a must-see nor a must-skip.
Father Roy (Dylan McDermott, In the Line of Fire), mother Denise (Penelope Ann Miller, Kindergarten Cop), teenage daughter Jess (Kristen Stewart, Twilight), and toddler brother Ben (Theodore and Evan Turner) are moving from the big city to small-time North Dakota to an isolated and run-down farm with a mysteriously dark history. No sooner do they arrive than do Jess and Ben begin seeing and hearing oddities in the house and around the farm. Creepy-cralwies the size of humans scurry about, bloody legs appear under the sheets, and generally spooky noises fill the house from time to time. As it becomes clear that the occurrences are more than random hallucinations brought about by the general creepiness of the house and the adjustment to a new town, Jess must work to not only convince herself but her parents that something may be terribly amiss. Meanwhile, new farmhand Burwell (John Corbett), a drifter who appears on the farm and agrees to work for nothing but room and board, works hard but seems to harbor some dark secret, and as pasts are revealed and connections made, the family may find that they've moved into a home better left vacant.
Though a bit dull and not especially original, The Messengers is a particularly well-made movie, a testament to the directorial skills of the Pang brothers. Though the film primarily relies on style over substance, style works effectively only to a point in a film such as this, and the brothers do somehow squeeze a few ounces of tension and fear from the visuals alone. Unfortunately, slick direction alone does not a movie make, and The Messengers falls apart beyond the superficial. Still, the picture manages to be stylish, atmospheric, and even downright chilling in several scenes, but such fleeting moments are ultimately for naught in light of the absence of a more compelling story. The lack of a more psychological angle leaves the visual and aural jump scenes to fend for themselves, and while they can be effective to a point, the lack of a more thorough supporting structure is ultimately the movie's demise. Unfortunately, astute viewers familiar with formula will see the scares coming in plenty of time to allow the effect to be dulled, ruining the movie's only real selling point. Still, the Pang Brothers do show some promise here; hopefully fate will find them behind the camera with a stronger shooting script to work with in the near future.
Aside from the doldrums brought on by the lack of a more purposeful story, The Messengers is another movie that starts off well enough and fades into oblivion soon thereafter, this time a result of a middle act that's the definition of wash-rinse-repeat. Throughout the entirety of the second act, The Messengers becomes an exercise in excess similarities as either Jess, Ben, or both investigate creepy noises or odd occurrences in some darkened corner of the house or surrounding farm, with the resultant find becoming only increasingly loud or revealing more of the creatures, but never do such scenes serve much purpose or deliver anything beyond superficial and fleeting chills. Once the third act arrives and the big secret is revealed, the film has already worn out its welcome and the surprise is greeted more with a shrug than genuine shock. The finale is as banal as they come, a by-the-numbers conclusion that plays out exactly as expected with no wiggle room to even hint that there might be something different in the film's final minutes. Ultimately, The Messengers is an unremarkable picture, a middle-of-the-road experience that delivers exactly what's expected of it with only a collection of average performances and above-average directing making it somewhat more palatable than most other movies of this sort.
The Messengers Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Messengers creeps onto Blu-ray with a wonderfully film-like 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. The film opens with a brief yet crucial black-and-white segment that's nicely rendered and well-defined, and save for a bit of banding, it makes for a solid visual introduction to the film. The remainder is presented in color; the image is consistently crisp, strongly detailed, abundantly colorful when need be, and the interior of the house is appropriately dreary, shadowy, and chilling. Hardwood planks appear wonderfully textured, and accumulated crud in between each one appears as if its been there for years, all the lint, dust, pebbles, and everything in between them appearing lifelike down to the most minute detail. Likewise, facial detail is generally extraordinary in close-up shots, the transfer revealing every pore, bump, and stubble of facial hair with a brilliant real-world appearance. Distance shots of the exterior of the farmhouse remain sharp and detailed across the entire frame. The greenery in said shots makes for the strongest colors to be seen in the film, though several outdoor shots as seen during the characters' several jaunts into town are strongly realized, too, with more in the way of additional natural colors. Black levels are strongly rendered throughout, though detail seems lost within their shadowy confines in several scenes. Flesh tones waver between a neutral shade and a slight orange tint. The print is in generally pristine condition, save for a handful of white speckles that randomly appear over a couple of random shots. Film grain is visible but not persistently so; a thin layer that allows fine detail to remain intact is handsomely preserved over the entirety of the film. All said, The Messengers makes for yet another attractive and film-like transfer from Sony; its several flaws are minor and hardly worthy of more than a cursory mention and minor downward adjustment of the score.
The Messengers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Messengers crawls onto Blu-ray with an aggressive PCM 5.1 uncompressed soundtrack that heightens the film's use of jump scare tactics considerably. Though not immediately evident, the track ultimately engages the aural senses with a full-blown surround sound extravaganza that practically plants the listener in the midst of the sunflower fields or in the creepy confines of the dusty old farmhouse, the first such assault on the ears coming in chapter eight. Tight, rumbling bass accompanies many of the more demanding and vigorous moments, and it's enough to positively but not distractingly rattle the seat. Never is the bass or often accompanying surround effects forced or overly pronounced; The Messengers features a balanced and satisfying soundtrack, and the uncompressed presentation handles everything thrown at it with ease. Many of the "scarier" scenes create a seamless 360-degree sound field that's used to full effect; they deliver an experience that's nothing short of sonic insanity, a mesmerizing cacophony of sounds swooping about the listening area and recreating the locales and sound effects with precision. Strong dialogue reproduction rounds out a superb uncompressed presentation.
The Messengers Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Messengers scares up a few extras for this Blu-ray release, the collection headlined by a commentary track with Actress Kristen Stewart, Writer Mark Wheaton, Actor Dustin Milligan, Visual Effect Supervisor Bruce Jones, and Producers William Sherak and Jason Shuman. The quartet deliver a standard sort of commentary and, as expected of such a diverse field of participants, it tends to wander from topic to topic without much cohesion. Nevertheless, whatever topic material happens to be front-and-center, it proves rather interesting to a point. Still, large group commentaries rarely work as well as more focused efforts, and this one is for fans only. Exhuming 'The Messengers' (1080i, 37:12) is a seven-part feature that looks at various aspects of the production. The segments are rather self-explanatory in title, and are as follows: Pang Vision (6:33), Script Evolution (4:05), Constructing the Set (6:29), Kristen Stewart, Rising Star (4:33), John Corbett: Unexpected Villain (4:18), Meet the Crows (4:48), and Exploring Visual Effects (6:23). Also included are 1080p trailers for The Grudge 2, Ghost Rider, Blood and Chocolate, Catch and Release, and Stomp the Yard.
The Messengers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Messengers is a fine but ultimately ineffective PG-13 Horror picture thanks not to the lack of solid direction but instead the absence of a meaningful or otherwise compelling script. The picture's reliance on jump scare tactics and loud noises at inopportune times only reinforces that the movie is little more than a well-made carbon copy of most any garden-variety PG-13 Horror picture of recent vintage, and as such, the project seemed doomed from the start. Danny and Oxide Pang's direction proves one of few bright spots and it does elevate the picture a few notches above the doldrums of the genre, the result a passable movie that's neither memorable nor forgettable, a decent and typical example of the recent trend in dumbed-down Horror. Sony's Blu-ray release, however, excels in spite of the movie's mediocre quality. With a top-flight technical presentation and a decent supplemental section, The Messengers earns a tepid recommendation as a buy for the right price, but comes easily recommended as a solid rental.
The Messengers: Other Editions
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