« The Sperm | Main | Bewitching Attraction »

March 24, 2007

The Messengers


Oxide Pang & Danny Pang - 2007
Sony Pictures 35mm Film

In spite of the decidedly mixed reviews for The Messengers from stateside critics, I made it a point to see this newest film from the Pang Brothers (seen above). Not that it made any difference, but there was for me a kind of circular logic to seeing the duo's English language debut in the country where they made there mark, primarily with The Eye. I had no worries about the Pang's working in English based on Oxide's solo effort The Tesseract. What I wasn't sure about was whether the film would look like the work of the brothers, especially with the news that another director was brought in to re-shoot some footage.

I suspect that some of the critical hostility towards The Messenger is based on several factors. Primarily, within the horror genre, the film has more in common with the Pangs' previous work than it does with a film like Stay Alive. The horror is not explicit as in, for example, Bangkok Haunted. The Pangs new film spends a good part of the time establishing a sense of dread following the opening scene with a boy and a woman pursued and killed by someone or something unseen by the audience. The basic premise, of ghosts invisible to all but one person makes The Messenger similar to The Eye. Complaints that the ghosts are similar to those seen in primarily Japanese horror films is based on a superficial knowledge of Asian horror films. The Pangs essentially created what have become the cliches of the Asian horror film. In terms of establishing the framework of a certain genre, The Eye is to ghost stories what Stagecoach is to the Western.

The most unbelievable thing about The Messengers isn't that there are ghosts in an abandoned house in North Dakota, or that the house looks too similar to the family home of Norman Bates. What is incredible is that the audience is to believe that Dylan McDermott can single-handedly farm sunflowers on property the size of a couple of football fields.

The ghosts that really haunt The Messengers are those from past horror films. Aside from the creepy house, the other big Hitchcock shout-out concerns the crows that appear ominously throughout the film, especially near the end when a large flock attacks farm-hand John Corbett. This may be heresy to some, but the scene did convince me that maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to take Hitchcock's The Birds and replace the obvious rotoscope animation with some state-of-the-art CGI birds. The Pangs also pay tribute to The Amityville Horror and/or The Shining, with their undone fathers destroying their families. William B. Davis is effective in a small role, bringing in immediate memories of The X-Files's Cigarette Smoking Man. Familiar elements aside, The Messenger is nicely photographed making the Pangs' Hollywood debut look as good as their previous films. One could easily imagine The Messengers taking place in a remote farm in Thailand. In this case, the Pang brothers came to America, and brought some of their ghosts with them.

Posted by peter at March 24, 2007 05:21 AM


Peter, I have absolutely nothing to say about The Messengers. I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my visual-minded heart for finally replacing that blurry 3-D picture of yourself! The site looks fabulous.

Posted by: tlrhb at March 25, 2007 01:11 AM

Thank you. Of course all compliments should go to my SO who took the time to redesign the site. She also took the photo of me standing in front of the bright lights of Chiang Mai.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at March 25, 2007 01:31 AM

I really enjoyed The Eye so I'm curious about The Messengers. I'm looking forward to giving it a look when it comes out on DVD.

p.s. I like the blog makeover!

Posted by: Kimberly at March 25, 2007 02:32 AM