August 11, 2009

Messengers 2: The Scarecrow (2009)

"Messengers 2" is no better and no worse than 'The Messengers" although it is a prequel and a completely different story. The farm setting is the same and the camerawork is identical as well.

For almost the first hour it feels like a really good Stephen King adaptation even though it's nothing to do with Stephen King of course. Having watched "Thinner" again recently, it has the same pacing and atmosphere. Nothing too much wrong with it at all, and there are even some sexy moments just when you think it is going to start to lag. One of the scenes was very similar to Dario Argento's "Jenifer" from the "Masters of Horror" series (which in turn has similarity to part of "Basic Instinct") so it's a bit of a cliché rather than anything else. I'm not going to spoil it for you. The fun of these movies is seeing where plot devices have been borrowed from others anyway.

Actually adding the sexy bits, including some great boobage on display at one point, was a stroke of genius. As I said, there are moments where you think the story is going to lag and then "Bam!' (to coin a phrase) there's some eyecandy again. That's either a piece of severely well thought out editing to make it commercial or just a fortunate accident. I think it was intentional.

It'll probably be mentioned a lot by other people, but the big draw here is that there are lots of echoes of the current recession. Although farmers are notoriously always getting in financial trouble and it could be set at any time, it just has the right amount of "hooks" for people to identify with and it gives a bit more empathy to the characters. There's a lot of subtext to what's going on with the family rather than an actual subplot, but I thought it was well done given the constraints of the rest of the movie. There's no Oscar winning stuff here and a couple of the characters should have been fleshed out a bit more but you have to take things for what they are.

After the first hour though things start to get a little bit confusing and silly for a few minutes. There are a couple of twists, a bit of an homage to "The Shining", and the ending feels a bit rushed. It flips between being about a cursed object (a la "Friday the 13th: The Series"), to a bit of a ghost story and then back to witchcraft and black magic again. There's even a moment where you think that it's going to turn into "The Uninvited" and be all about madness too, but it doesn't eventually go that way.

Things that really stood out for me was how Norman Reedus (as John Rollins) carried most of the movie on his own. He's no Jack Nicholson and is very "TV" (if you know what I mean), but he was quite credible for the most part. It could always have been a lot worse. I think the script had a lot to do with the annoyances I was feeling towards his character at times.

The other character roles are all quite small apart from Mary Rollins (played by Heather Stephens). She's very nice to look at, but there were times when her character really needed a slap in the mouth. I suppose that was the point too as if I noticed it, so would the scarecrow... and that wish-fulfilment is pretty much the basis of the plot.

Unfortunately, the scarecrow doesn't really do a lot on screen except in the last 20 minutes or so. It's a well designed thing but, as ever, it's just a guy in a costume. There isn't really a lot of gore in this either, but when there is some blood, it's realistic and not stupidly over the top. It feels like a TV movie a lot so it probably explains why it's so toned down. Again, I think this is a very commercial thing that has been done so that it will get a lot of airplay on Sci-Fi (Syfy) and Chiller without too many cuts. The phrase "art is best when hidden" really springs to mind when such obvious manipulation shows up. It doesn't make it a bad movie though, and it is sort of like watching a masterclass in how to interfere with a movie enough to make it appeal to the largest common denominator.

I actually liked it enough to buy it later. I think it could be watched more than once not for entertainment but just fascination with how it was made. I doubt that the extras on the DVD will be as enlightening as any insider gossip which we will probably pick up from the internet, but you never know.

I can also see this having at least one more sequel one day mainly because of the totally unnecessary final couple of minutes.

I'd rate it as 5 out of 10. An entry level/average score for direct to video sequels. If there had only been a little bit more polishing done then it could have got maybe a 6 out of 10. I feel the same way about it as the recent "Last House on the Left" remake as it was a very good try given what they had to work with.

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