Standard horror fare delivers stock thrills

2008-10-02 08:05

This movie has all the elements Hollywood usually puts into these efforts: bad script, creepy music, the standard formula of chills and, of course, children. Horror directors these days seem enamoured with the creepy effect children can have; the last few horrors I've seen have all featured kids' drawings, kids' nursery songs, weirdly knowing kids …

The Messengers uses the latter, the idea being that children can see the supernatural, while adults cannot, but I'm not sure why the title's in the plural 'cause there's only one child in the movie; at least, only one that's still alive. The premise of the film is hardly new: family, including troubled teen and dumb (as in mute) toddler, move into creepy house where something icky happened a few years back. They are joined by a farm worker who may or may not be all that he seems. Toddler can see the nasties that live under the stairs, teen has run-in with them, but parents won't believe her because she's troubled. There's nothing new or memorable here; it's so standard, it feels like a montage of other movies you've seen but can't quite put your finger on (except for the malevolent birdies, which seem to have come straight from their last assignment, terrifying Tippi Hedren in a phone booth).

Not that it isn't scary in parts. Effects are too good these days not to be a little troubling, especially if, like me, you are a complete wuss when it comes to horror movies. There's all those usual moments that you get in horrors when some critter runs coyly across the camera too fast to be seen, then grabs the heroine round the neck, those moments when you go “No, don't go down there”, knowing that she will … Etcetera.

The Messengers is somewhat mechanical and completely forgettable, except perhaps for Kristen Stewart's performance as the teenage Jess. The thrills make it a good date movie, but it's not good for much else. **

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