The Messengers

By Mark Ramsey | 2007/02/04

If you tell me The Messengers stars Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller, my first question is “What time does it air on the Lifetime channel?”

With their daughter, Kristen Stewart, and her mute little brother in tow, Dylan and Penelope relocate from the Big City to the evidently empty plains of North Dakota where scary things start to happen – because there’s nothing Hollywood fears more than life in rural North Dakota and the forty-eight or so states which surround it.

messengers_dominos.jpgThey buy the oldest, most rundown house you will ever see. On the roof is a swirl of black – it’s every crow that Central Casting can spare.

“What’s on that roof?” asks Penelope.

“Just a lot of FX,” said Dylan.

“FX, on Lifetime? Wait until I tell Connie Sellecca and Cheryl Ladd!”

Dylan is going to start a new career as a farmer – even if the sight of McDermott on a tractor is like Anna Nicole Smith on a Space Shuttle. “Where’s the GPS on this thing?” asks Dylan.

And what crop is Dylan growing, you ask?


messengers_reach.jpgYes, sunflowers. Agriculture’s baby-step from farming dandelions. Why not just harvest weeds?

“Let’s clear the land for our crop of sunflowers,” says Dylan. “And if we can make some room for daisies and baby’s breath, so much the better.”

The Messengers is directed by Hong Kong horror specialists the Pang brothers. And in this case two heads are no better than one, whether or not they extend from the same neck.

On the bright side, the movie is a lean 84 minutes. “When you’re making a movie as bad as this,” said one Pang to the other, “every millimeter of film stock is precious.”

“That’s right,” said his brother. “At a certain point the studio would sooner throw film stock in the trash than force its exposure to this kind of crap.”

For most of its running time, The Messengers is one fake scare after another. It’s psych-out city. Like so many others of its kind, this movie takes every decent horror flick you can think of and homogenizes, fillets, and purees them together in whatever blender the writers and the monkey-handlers who feed them used for this script.

Yawn…there’s the shot of disembodied legs under the bedding which would be genuinely shocking if you hadn’t seen it in the trailer and on TV a thousand times.

“Mom, I think I saw cold legs under your covers,” said Kristen.

“Those are just your father’s” said Penelope. “Bad circulation.”

Kristen’s little brother has “the shine.” That means he can see all the CG beasties crawling herky-jerky along the ceiling. “I don’t mind if you violate our home,” he tells one, “but how dare you violate the laws of physics!”

Eventually the ghosts go ballistic: Dozens of books are knocked off the shelf, because there has never been a spirit who favors a well-arranged library.

Enter John Corbett, loner workman and one time TV paramour of Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker, now toting a shotgun and taking style lessons from cat-scratcher Ted Nugent. “Who needs a bath when you’ve got residuals?” asks Corbett.

My favorite moment: When “Tippi” Corbett is attacked by a thousand crows. The thought of him battling off digital manifestations of bad and derivative filmmaking and knowing he will never tell the tale to Actor’s Studio host James Lipton makes me feel that, as the sunflower farmers say, you reap what you sow.

So what’s the lesson we learn from The Messengers?

That nothing brings together a family like a crazed psychotic murderer.

This message postmarked from a lonely rural intersection where high school plays meet the Screen Actor’s Guild. The signpost ahead: The Lifetime Zone.

Dear Messengers: Next time IM.

More about this movie at


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