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The Beginning of the End.
Kristen Stewart seems to have it all backwards as an actress. Where most young women start off in disposable horror roles, Stewart was basically introduced to the world opposite Jodie Foster in a film directed by David Fincher (Panic Room, for those who missed it). She showed she had some serious dramatic depth with the HBO film Speak, where she played a young girl who'd been rendered mute after being raped. Only then did she decide, for reasons surpassing understanding, to star in the horror flick The Messengers. In addition to Kristen Stewart, the Hong Kong horror-flavored flick has John Corbett and Penelope Ann Miller, and I mention this because the actors (even if they're miscast) are about the only good thing about the original, and the same is true for the prequel, Messengers 2: The Scarecrow.
I didn't see the original, but from what I understand it was Amityville meets The Others, with a creepy house filled with creepy ghosts only visible to certain people. There was a back story involving the previous residents of the house, and that's where The Scarecrow comes in. This flick is supposed to be the story of the Rollins family that became so famous in the first film. After an anonymous slaughter in a cornfield, we open on John Rollins (Norman Reedus, The Boondock Saints), a corn farmer struggling with his broken water pump. He has a wife and two children, but things aren't going well on the farm. He has an extension on his loan, and with no money to fix the pump he' has to hope that the rains come before his crops fail. If that's not bad enough, the crows are eating what little corn there is in the dry ground. While exploring his barn, John finds an old door, and behind it a rather evil-looking scarecrow. His son tries to convince him to get rid of it, but a neighboring sharecropper (Richard Riehle, A Plumm Summer) convinces John to put it up. Once he does, the crows die, the water pump revives, and the man trying to foreclose on him dies mysteriously. It's the latter consequence that begins John's suspicions toward the crow, and as relations worsen between him and his wife, John grows increasingly wary of the scarecrow until it finally decides to attack his family and he must fight back.
If the first film was Amityville meets The Others, then Messengers 2: The Scarecrow is Wicker Man meets Pumpkinhead. The first two-thirds play out as a fairly compelling family drama, as the pressure of a loan and failing crops drives a wedge between John and his wife, and if it weren't for the initial slaughter scene and John's bad dreams, there would be little reason to think this a horror film. However, when the third act kicks into gear we get a mixture of the mysterious, earthy paganism of The Wicker Man and the confused father conjuring a spirit he can't control of Pumpkinhead. From there, the film kicks into high gear offering a decent amount of gore and tension as John and his family fight against the malignant force of the scarecrow.
Honestly, Messengers 2 plays like two different movies. The domestic drama of the first part is ridiculously well-acted for a horror film. Both Norman Reedus and Heather Stephens give fantastic performances as husband and wife. I'd have loved to see them paired again without the horror trappings. The rest of the film is of a more old-school horror flavor. There's fairy copious nudity from Darcy Flowers and some pretty decent gore, and the scarecrow is well-rendered when he makes his first non-stationary appearance. However, neither of these parts are extensive or compelling enough on their own to warrant a viewing, and the combination doesn't quite hang together either. Horror fans won't feel totally let down by this little flick, but it's going to offer much new to the faithful.
The DVD from Sony is as much a mixed bag as the film itself. The video is nothing special, although that may be the source. It's not a distracting transfer or anything, it's just underwhelming. The audio is a little better, providing a fairly creepy mix that keeps dialogue audible. The lone extra is a commentary with the director Martin Barnewitz and writer Todd Farmer (of Jason X and the My Bloody Valentine re-make). The pair is pretty talkative, sharing their understanding of the story as well as fleshing out some of the characters. They also discuss the production, including how the script changed as the budget tightened.
Messengers 2 doesn't seem to have much going for it as a sequel/prequel to The Messengers, but horror fans looking for some nudity and gore could do worse than this feature.
Guilty of wasting excellent acting on a so-so horror story.
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