Asian-style horror-movie ghouls tend to come in three varieties, and you’ll find ’em all in The Messengers, an unoriginal haunted-farmhouse flick representing the Hollywood debut of twin Hong Kong directors Danny and Oxide Pang. First, there’s the pale kid with white-orb eyes. Next, there’s the slow-moving ghoul — typically female — who either lurks in the back of the frame or else colludes with the editor to pop up right in your face. And then there’s the crawler: When Asian movie ghouls move fast, for some reason they’re usually on all fours.
The Asian-horror-movie moment feels long since passed, both here and abroad. Let our zombies walk or even sprint again! Give our creepy kids back their pupils! There are a few decent jolts in The Messengers, but every one of them is accompanied by a cheap freak-out on the soundtrack so you know to be decently jolted. The story kicks off when Dylan McDermott moves his family — including a mute toddler who likes to point his stubby finger at freaky stuff — into a North Dakota house that looks half burned down, and the movie only makes less sense from there. Soon his teen daughter (Kristen Stewart) is seeing things her parents cannot, like a pair of blue hands coming at her out of quicksand in the basement. Her parents think she’s crazy, and since she glumly sticks around for more, maybe she is. Why is the girl not scared? Perhaps she’s seen too many horror movies? C