- compiled by Peter T. Chattaway Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2007 1 Jan
For the third year in a row, the top film at the box office on Super Bowl weekend was a low-budget horror movie.
This time, the film in question was The Messengers, which marks the American debut of Hong Kong filmmakers (and twin brothers) Oxide and Danny Pang. The movie concerns a family that moves from its Chicago home to a haunted farmhouse in North Dakota—and only the children can see the ghosts that lurk there and threaten to do them all harm.
Bob Hoose (Plugged In) is impressed by the movie's technique—however "cloned" it may be from the works of other filmmakers—and he likes some of its redemptive themes: "It takes the time to show us a family looking for healing and seeking a new start. And in the end, the horror they're put through helps them do just that. When the going gets ghastly, they figure out how to hold fast to each other and find the strength to make it through. If only there could have been something other than all-powerful, revenge-starved corpses and deranged psychopaths to get them there." He concludes, "there's just something wrong with indulging a narrative that's all about the peace ghosts find when they exact fatal revenge on their oppressors."
Christian Hamaker (Crosswalk) says the film "doesn't muster much in the way of atmosphere or scares." He finds it more silly than suspenseful, and concludes: "A sense of irony can add a lively dimension to films in the weary horror genre, but The Messengers barely nods in that direction. In taking itself so seriously, it bogs down. Neither scary nor interesting, The Messengers adds nothing to the genre but a pale imitation of what's come before."
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says he appreciates how the directors "bring their less-is-more Asian horror sensibilities to the standard haunted-house genre, showing far more restraint in depicting the murderous mayhem than is generally the case. Still, while adroit at creating eerie visuals, the brothers fail to generate much sustained suspense, mustering only modest chills as they navigate a predictable plot capped by a ludicrous climax."
For the most part, mainstream critics are sending this message back to sender.