Review in a Hurry: Angry ghosts terrorize displaced family, mildly vex audience. Essentially plops the Ring and Grudge ghosts into The Amityville Horror, to no good effect.

The Bigger Picture: The message of this creepy-ghost thriller is that no matter how talented the Hong Kong filmmakers may be, they'll invariably be forced to make their first American movie an unimpressive, generic creepy-ghost thriller. Twin brothers Danny and Oxide Pang have a string of overseas hits (including Bangkok Dangerous and The Eye) and a lot of experience with the decaying, dripping-wet phantoms that have been a horror staple since The Ring. But style and imagination have always been their strong points, and The Messengers has only a little of the former and none of the latter.

When a troubled Chicago family pulls up stakes and moves to a decrepit farm in North Dakota, they're quickly beset by poltergeists, murderous crows, and...persistent stains? Teenage daughter Jess (Kristen Stewart) gets the brunt of their abuse, but nobody trusts her because of a recent family trauma that would probably have made for a much better movie.

The skittering stop-motion ghosts are just scary enough to make you wish they'd been put to better use, and there are nice moments here and there, artfully composed shafts of light and mundane objects rendered sinister by just the right framing. But so little actually happens in The Messengers that the stylistic touches seem like wasted effort—this message is medium at best.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Addicted to J-horror but sick of subtitles? This'll scratch that itch. Also, attention, John Corbett fans! He plays a key role.


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