A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that teens who like ghost stories may well want to see this latest creepy-scary horror film. It includes frequent jump scenes (big noises, sudden movements on screen), and its premise is based on the long-ago murder of a family. Early scenes indicate the killings with spatters of blood, rough camerawork, loud booms, and screaming. Later, gray-faced, long-limbed ghosts grab at the main character's head and ankles, and viewers see glimpses of ghosts in the walls and under floors and repeated scenes of crows flying, perching, and attacking. Violence is usually insinuated by fast editing and close-ups, though the bloody effects are visible. Minor language includes "damn," "s--t," and "hell." The movie's most disturbing theme has the parents disbelieving and distrusting their daughter, although viewers know she's right.
What's the story?
At the center of THE MESSENGERS is Jess (Kristen Stewart), a teenager whose parents can't forget that she was responsible for a car accident that injured her baby brother. The family moves into a rural farmhouse to try to put their lives back together. Their new home is spooky, which increases Jess' feelings of anxiety and isolation. Meanwhile, mom Denise (Penelope Ann Miller), dotes on little Ben while dad Roy (Dylan McDermott), spends his days working outdoors. Only Jess and Ben can see the ghosts in the house, and Jess promises Ben she'll never to let anything happen to him. When their parents go out for a night, the place erupts in supernatural fury. But by the time the cops arrive and the parents get home, the house is set right and the adults think that Jess is seeking attention. Jess' relationship to the house is exacerbated by the arrival of shotgun-toting vagabond John (John Corbett), actually listens to Jess when she describes the creepy goings-on. "I know," he mumbles sagely, "that people sometimes, especially parents, don't know how to listen."
Is it any good?
Another scary house movie, another family in crisis. Directors Oxide and Danny Pang made The Eye, among other films, which helped establish the genre's scratched-looking digital effects and moody haunting – the ghosts' faces are grey and pained, their movements scuttling in the usual J-horror way.
There are repeated opportunities for Jess to look afraid: her face half-obscured by shadows, her eye held in oppressive close-up, her willowy figure silhouetted at the top of the cellar stairs. Windows, doorframes, and cracks in doors and floors create internal frames that confine her, even as she and Ben peer beyond the camera, seeking to know what's watching them and so plainly means to hurt them. "What do you want from me?" she cries out when walking through the especially dark, huge barn. But The Messengers doesn't ever reveal what the house wants from her. In fact, it doesn't say much about anything that's new.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of ghost stories. Why is the idea of supernatural hauntings so popular in movies and other media? Do you believe in ghosts? Do you think they'd behave like the ones in this movie? Families can also talk about Jess' relationship with her parents. How does the movie show that they can't get past her mistake back in Chicago? How does that affect their current relationship? How does Jess cope with their suspicions? Are there better ways that they could deal with their issues?
- In theaters: February 2, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: June 5, 2007
- Cast: Dylan McDermott, Kristen Stewart, Penelope Ann Ann Miller
- Director: Danny Pang
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material, disturbing violence and terror.
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