Review: THE MESSENGERS

Posted by Peter Hall - April 24th 2008 @ 11:53 pm

Directed by Danny Pang, Oxide Pang Chun, 2007
Written by Mark Wheaton, Todd Farmer

Several months ago I woke up in the middle of the night with an inexplicable (read: alcohol) sickness in my stomach that begged my digestive track to be free of its gastric prison. I awoke in that all too familiar breed of confusion attributable only to a hangover in identity crisis, a mental state where decisions are registered on time delay, action taking place well in advance of legislation. I jolted out of the bed stark naked, hand slapped to mouth in a futile attempt to restrain the spew. The master bedroom has its own bathroom, but my logic was having none of that. Instead I bolted out of the door, wedding tackle flapping in the wind, spraying the light switch with vomit on the way out. I burst down the hallway to the bathroom on the opposite end of the house, a citadel refuge in which I paid umbrage to the porcelain God, sacrificing my deeply personal bile in a pledge for sweet release.

It was a dreadful experience running down that corridor, past our roommate’s steps, penis flopping carefree, curled on the floor naked in a dribbled pool of my own once-internals. And yet I would take a thousand of those nights over watching THE MESSENGERS again. It is a film of mythic shortcomming, of legendary incoherence. I was drunk that regretful eve months prior, oblivious to why I decide to run naked, decking the halls with yuletide vomit along the way instead of using the bathroom mere feet from where I lay, and yet, in retrospect, that inebriated jog makes far more sense than all of THE MESSENGERS. And, for the record, on a scale of 1 to 100, it made 1.1 sense.

I cannot and will not review THE MESSENGERS in the same way I would a normal film. I refuse, for all the reasons listed above and another about to follow. Instead of a written exploration, I will use a handful of screenshots from the Sam Raimi produced (!!), Danny and Oxide Pang directed cinematic supernova of silliness that is THE MESSENGERS to express just how brainless it is. But before I turn this into a picture book, let me share with you something about the movie that had my jaw on the floor. This, my friends, is the tale of someone named Grace MacLeod, an unfortunate soul listed in the final credits of THE MESSENGERS as, wait for it……. “Bug Wrangler”.

Normally I don’t sit through the final credits of a film. Sure it is disrespectful to Joe/Jane Sixpack involved with production, but I doubt they’d sit through the full credits of other productions, so I sleep easy at night all the same. This time around, however, I was in such a state of bewilderment that we were still trying to make sense of the jumble thrown at us that I was present for all of the credits. It was between bouts of laughter with my aforementioned roommate Cody (Christine didn’t even last the whole movie, that’s how weak of a draw it has) that I noticed the credited job of “Bug Wrangler”. I have no doubt that such a position exists, JOE’S APARTMENT must have paid the rent for a fleet of wranglers for months, and I am in turn sure that Grace MacLeod does an outstanding job of lasso’ing bugs around a set, but what had us in a continuous uproar is this:

There are no bugs in THE MESSENGERS. None that I could recall, that Cody could recall or that Christine could recall. Not one. Now let us do some math. THE MESSENGERS, sourced from a Blu-ray Disc, would have been crossing our eyes at 29.97 frames per second, the standard for NTSC displays. The film is 90 minutes long, which is 5,400 seconds, which is a grand total of 161,838 singular image frames. Not one of those frames, to our knowledge, had any manner of bug in it. Not one. Why, oh Lord WHY, was there a “Bug Wrangler” hired for THE MESSENGERS? This may seem trivial to you, but trust in me, if you’ve seen this clown-in-an-iron-lung of a film, you’ll know just how relevant of a quality indicator this conundrum is.

Moving on. It is picture time. But before progression, let me set the scene. THE MESSENGERS is about a Chicago family that leaves the city to take over a dilapidated sunflower seed farm house. The parents are oblivious, but their offspring, a young boy (who stares and points at walls with the pretension that he can see things we can’t) and a teenage Kristen Stewart, sense the ghostly inhabbitants of the farmhouse. I’m not even going to get into the plot and character logic of the film, as it holds ground worse than the kid who drank from the fire hose in UHF, but I just want to point out some of the worst instances of discontinuity I’ve ever seen passed off to horror customers.

Exhibit A, a scene, about a third in, in which Stewart is dragged into the house’s cellar.

And then, during the film’s “climax”, the mother rushes into that very cellar to escape her assailant, using the only in-house entrance, the very same entrace that Kristen Stewart presumably was dragged into as seen in the images above these very words:

I should point out that the door above does not lead to the corridor seen previously. It leads directly into the cellar, which is where our adventure continues.

Earlier in the film, Stewart, while exploring the cellar, opens these bay doors:

In the “climax” Stewart flees into the cellar with her mother/brother, where they are, apparently trapped. Trapped despite the fact that Stewart is standing in front of the very bay doors you see above you (even though the light passing through doesn’t match the gap pattern at all).

Instead of leaving the basement through an established exit, what does she do? She smashes the light bulb seen before you. This light bulb, whose luminescence would baffle any GE engineer, shatters and plunges the entire cellar into darkness, ignoring the sunlight streaming through those bay doors.

No, I did not just insert a black image of my own creation. That is a screenshot taken moments after she shatters the bulb.

I imagine you are on the edge of your seat right now, wondering how the filmmakers can bring light into this abyss of ebony. The antagonist (whose character history makes absolutely no fucking sense), takes a pitch fork and starts poking holes in the ceiling. The key word there is ceiling. He pokes holes into the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom – wherever, it does not matter. He breaches the ceiling of a cellar into the ceilinged room of the entire house above and yet light blasts through the holes as if the sun was exploding unobstructed above their heads.

These holes, of which there are 4 sets, transform the basement from the darkness you see above to this in a matter of 90 seconds:

Surely if Ghost House Pictures can hire a Bug Wrangler, they can hire a Continuity Supervisor. Or, if one isn’t available, mayhaps they could open their God forsaken eyeballs. How can they not see the flaws here? I can submit to you no justification. [That corridor leading to the cellar door doesn’t even exist in the poster!]

This is not me nitpicking the reality of THE MESSENGERS. I once covered a friend’s video store when he took a trip to Europe. There was a kid who came in, went straight to the porn, was in the back room for 45 minutes before coming to the front empty handed bearing only a simple question, “Do you have CHERRY POPPERS 3?” I’ll not detail the hilarity of that inquiry (or how my negative response knocked the wind right out of his sails), but I will explain that said person then stood and talked to me for 30 minutes or 30 hours, I could not distinguish if my life depended on it. He elaborated unto me how he loved JURASSIC PARK 3 until they brought in the Megasaur (or whatever it was called). His reasoning? Well, you see, the Megasaur had only been discovered in the real world about 6 months prior to the film’s release, which would not have given InGen enough time to obtain DNA samples, create a viable clone and raise it to the mature adult it was in the film.

I shit you negative.

I do not care about things like that. They do not factor into my enjoyment of a film, because I am capable of suspending disbelief, unlike that CHERRY POPPERS 3 seeking cement brick of a brain. What will factor, however, is a blatant obtuseness to the material a director is putting on screen. When they don’t give a damn, why should I? Those two examples above are not rarities in THE MESSENGERS, they just happened to be the first two examples I grabbed. They also only deal with set geography. The gaps in plot are of such girth they could swallow Galactus while he is eating a planet.

THE MESSENGERS is a kingly failure that should be banished from recorded history and offered an existence as an urban legend told over campfire to scare Intro to Film Production students into exerting some modicum of thought into their final films. If they don’t, THE MESSENGERS will happen to them. They will be doomed to an eternal loop of suffocating banality, of definition altering stupidity. THE MESSENGERS should only ever be shown to people in the same manner that blood spattered highway crash films are shown to students in Driver’s Ed.

I will, however, offer this concession. The Pang brothers did create one image that I love, an image that makes me squirm ever so slightly even when viewed in a well lit room:

Bravo. That one works and saved you from receiving an F. Now please stop making movies.


rss 2 comments
  1. Sean
    April 27th, 2008 | 10:16 am | #1

    This is the movie where I spent more attention to the drunken girls going WTF IS THAT WTF IS THAT OMGGGG WATCH OUT ITS A SOMETHING OMFG WTF IS THAAAAT throughout the movie. It sounds like I didn’t really miss anything. :(

  2. deepfield
    April 27th, 2008 | 11:32 am | #2

    I somehow made it through this film in its entirety, but for some reason all is remember is John Corbett..

comment on this article


Recent Comments