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by Matt DeReno

At the outset of this flick, a frightened woman is in a house with her son, exhorting him that he has to be strong and that everything is going to be okay. She hears something coming towards the door and commands her son to hide under the bed. The door bursts open and an unseen figure, or something, throws the woman against the wall. The son, terrified, runs out of the room and into his sister's room, where his sister is also scared because of this thing, which we still can't see, bent on throwing people around the house. She grabs her petrified brother and they dash down the stairs, fleeing in terror, from something, which we cannot see. Now mind you, we cannot see it because they, being the filmmakers, will simply not show it to us. It could be a ghost chasing them? At least, that is what we are led to think.

The lad hides under a table, but his sister is, unfortunately, caught, dragged and pushed over the stair railings (again by unseen agent). However, she manages to crawl to the boy. She tells him to run. Soon she is dragged to the hallway and then to the cellar as her nails scratch on the floor. The boy darts into the kitchen and hides under the sink cabinet, but he is soon found, by that which we cannot see, and is pulled out. We guess he gets killed too. It is family events like this that would surely cause a house to get the haunted prefix added.

Then come the Dummies. Who are the Dummies? This is the emblematic movie family straight out of Hackneyed Hollywood's Central Casting department. However, in The Messengers they are given the name "The Solomon's". Dylan McDermott is the beyond obtuse father of the family, Roy Solomon. Penelope Anne Miller is the troubled wife of the clan, Denise Solomon. Kristen Scott is the angst-ridden youth, Jess Solomon. But, we know they are really The Dummies.

Making matters worse, the Dummies are leaving the big city and some sort of vague trouble that will forever haunt their teenage daughter, who will only find a true friend to confide in at the local basket ball court. Why? Because she has found it hard to adapt to this corn-fed North Dakotan community of insular hicks. Plus, she doesn't like that nobody seems to know what happened to the Remington's or the Rollins or whoever the hell they were that were all killed in the house, before they moved into it.

Inexplicably, The Dummies, will buy the biggest piece of junk haunted house in the middle of a farm and think this is a good place to start over from that big city trouble! There is also a cute kid riding along, who in a patent rip off of The Sixth Sense, can see the danger nobody else can but he is mute. You know, so he can't warn anybody. Oh my, he might see dead people! Been there. Done that.

Yes, there is some eerie stuff about crows flying, which was not too bad in concept and mood, but this movie really missed the ghostly mark. Too many things did not fit together. It was fright by absentia, which eventually gets on your nerves. How many times do we need to look into the terrified eyes of a family member before we realize this is just a cheap way to not have a cool ghost running around a haunted house? Now, granted, I don't have to have FX out the haunted library key hole, but even moving eye balls in an old oil painting would have been welcome in this overly minimalist effort.

Spoiler alert: If you must know, and you couldn't see this coming from miles away, the so-called "Messengers" who seem to be scary because they move toys, grab people and such, are really ghosts of the helpless family, which we were shown getting killed in the opening black and white sequence.

This begs the question: why shoot the opening scene in black and white as if the guy/monster/spirit (which we are clearly lead to believe committed these heinous crimes) will eventually be shown to have obviously lived in the modern day world of color? Do you follow me?

I could see if The Messengers included a family killed back in the 40s or something and now we are in the modern time of Technicolor and I-Pods. But, the whole film takes place in the same present day era. So why the change of color? Is it time to show flash backs in the 90s in black and white?

And, here is something else that really didn't make sense at all: the guy that killed them looked just as old as he did when we finally get to see him in the full black and white scenes, where he is maniacally slaughtering his family (as opposed to sensibly slaughtering a family). Another issue is that nobody in this screwed up town wondered just what happened to the original family? I hate to give the plot away, but jeez…. The murderer was the freaking guy next door?

This dude was never questioned when the original family was simply murdered? Oh, man! That is a stretch. And, the whole Rollins family disappeared off the face of the map too. Like in a small town nobody told the Dummies that there was a reason the house was a fixer-upper on and listed as, "4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, everybody that lived there gets killed..."

Well, I am warning all of you out there — this movie is indeed about a haunted house, unfortunately it is about one you surely have seen thousands of times before and seen done much better by countless other filmmakers.

It is also hard to believe that Sam Rami producer of the cult classic 1981's The Evil Dead had anything to do with this film. It also seems odd that it was directed by the Pang Brothers, who basically don't do horror type of films (so much as I could tell) and this film is no indicator they should do so again. It seemed that based on the good work The Pang brothers did on Bangkok Dangerous and other films, some Hollywood Execs had this script laying around (along with Sam Raimi) and said go film us a movie. It seems to have the elements.

The acting is hard to critique. This film actually includes decent enough talent to make a film serviceable, but all the talent is lost in this egregiously boring haunted house movie.

In the end, this is one case where I suggest it is okay to shoot the messenger(s).

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