Making the Grades
The Messengers is loaded with all the typical bits and pieces necessary for a classic horror film -- an abandoned farmhouse, a flock of cackling crows and plenty of creepy images darting here and there.
Years after a multiple massacre takes place in the old, deserted two-storey, a carload of new inhabitants pulls into the driveway. The Chicago family (who knows nothing about the murders) is moving to the remote North Dakota farm to plant a sunflower crop. Their young son Ben (Evan and Theodore Turner) seems content to be transplanted, but their sullen teenage daughter Jess (Kristen Stewart), is sulking because she's been ripped from her friends in the big city and deposited in the middle of nowhere she wants to be.
From the minute Jess enters the musty, old house she senses the sinister shadows and disembodied voices that haunt the hallways. Going out to the barn or down to the cellar also prove to be a nightmarish experience for the girl who has disturbing visits from dead people clawing and grasping at her with their pale, veined arms.
While Ben is able to see these apparitions as well, the adults can't. And of course, no one over the age of twenty is ready to believe the troubled sixteen-year-old's wild stories about ghostly manifestations. In fact, her assertions only inflame the lack of trust her parents (Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller) have in their unhappy daughter. And even a seemingly understanding homeless handyman (John Corbett), who shows up on the farm looking for work, doesn't appear to believe everything he hears about the paranormal activity that troubles Jess.
Mixing realistic scenarios with ghoulish appearances, the script scrapes up just enough storyline to string together a series of jump scenes. Relying on sudden appearances, scurrying characters and the ominous feeling of someone watching your back, the best scares in this movie come from what the audience doesn't see. Despite the fact that the film includes its share of gore, it doesn't focus solely on the decaying souls of the slaughtered family.
Still, these phantoms that follow Jess as she wanders around a dark house in the middle of the night are hardly family friendly. And though the spine-chilling sound effects, menacing musical score and agitated crows are all ploys that have been used before, they may still be upsetting enough to cause young viewers to crawl into their parents' bedroom for a message of reassurance.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Messengers.
Because of a past incident, Jess and her parents have some communication issues. How does this factor emphasize her sense of isolation when she begins to see things at the farmhouse? How can trust be reestablished once it has been broken?
What formulaic things does the director use to set up the horror scenario? Why is a remote location often a factor in this kind of film? Could this same thing happen as effectively in the middle of a big city?