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June 6, 2010

Messengers 2: The Scarecrow

2009, Dir. by Martin Barnewitz.

One of the formative terrors in my life came from a short tale I recall finding in a "scary" story book I devoured as a child. The book is long gone, though I can still picture a navy blue cover and can hazily remember another story about a phantom truck harassing a driver on a dark country road, but the memory of one segment stuck with me forever. In that simple horror story, a farmer becomes terrified of the scarecrow in his field, destroys it, and returns home later to see, from a distance, the scarecrow sitting upon the farmhouse's roof, waiting and watching over the land.

The image of this scene that I created in my mind has never left me, and I've always dreamt of finding it recreated on film. It didn't happen in the mega-fun Scarecrows, nor the low budget (and low intelligence) Scarecrow Gone Wild, but I've remained optimistic that I'd someday find my fear. My life-long hunt for evil scarecrows on film shall not stop until I find this terror.

So when I saw the trailer for Messengers 2: The Scarecrow - the direct-to-video prequel to a film I never saw - I was pretty pumped about the chance to continue my search. Having not seen the first film added to my intrigue, as I recall that Kristen Stewart flick looking more like a "more boring ghosts borrowed from Asian films" film than a scarecrow film, though the farm setting almost did nearly draw my interest. Alas, this was not the film to meet my fantasy.

Messengers 2 stars Boondock Saint Norman Reedus as the patriarch of a small family who is determined to make their family farm work. As a former farm child, I'm suggested from outside the screen that he might need more than one very small corn field to pay the bills for a family of four, but that's not what the film wants us to think about. The film's solution to all the family's problems is a mangled old scarecrow he finds in the barn, which his seemingly wise neighbor (Hatchet's Richard Riehle, whom I continue to mistake for Bill Murray's not-as-funny brother Brian Doyle Murray) insists will "plant the seeds" that will solve his problems. Despite his son's advice (and the fact that his primary problem lies in a broken irrigation system, and not in crows), Reedus' John props up the creepy old thing, and fortune follows.

Well, fortune doesn't exactly follow. The banker who's out to foreclose and the neighbor who's a threat to his relationship with his wife (a cute thing called Heather Stephens) aren't problems anymore, and a busty neighbor who's fond of shedding her inhibitions (if inhibitions = clothes) appears; but things don't really get better. In traditional father-driven-to-extremes fashion (the DVD cover references The Shining and I'd say that's fair, if only in regard to the plot's ideas) things at home get awkward. All clues suggest that the straw-filled culprit is pulling his strings.

From there on Messengers 2 follows the standard modern horror blueprint for befuddling the viewer. A series of surreal visions and auditory hallucinations occur, and the overworked papa begins to neglect his family. When he does get home his uncertainties and paranoiac behavior get the best of him, resulting in arguments and forced sex scenes. Doubts are born in those around him, and his behavior escalates. Blah blah blah, you know this story. Reedus does an adequate job by never going too far over the top in the role, but he never seems unhinged enough to really sell the film's plot either. The rest of the cast members manage stereotypical roles that include the faithful and concerned wife, the teen daughter who doubts her parent by nature, and the seductive and mysterious neighbor. They all make their way to a silly finale with a tacked on moment that probably has some correlation to that Messengers film I never saw.

(By the way, what kind of word is messenger? Ever sent anyone a "messenge"? I haven't. I've heard of messages, but I guess the forefathers of that there English language just didn't think messager would have worked. I'm getting confused just thinking about it, let's finish the review....)

I guess the film as a whole is passable, as there were few moments that really brought out severe dislike from me, but it's awfully forgettable. The titular scarecrow, which was prevalent in the advertising, is rarely a physical force in the story, and there are definitely none of the roof-climbing shenanigans that I'd dreamt of. Messengers 2 gets its point across, but there's not much to that point. We've seen it before, and it's nothing that's going to haunt my dreams like that story from youth still does.

Maybe someday I'll find my terror. Until then, I'll probably forget about Messengers 2.


Andrei said...

Excellent review. Gonna skip this, even though I quite enjoyed the first one (as much as one can enjoy a mediocre horror movie, that is).

Sharon Day said...

I admit the first film was a total bore, but this one, having a scarecrow, sounded so good. I keep hoping someone can do a scarecrow movie--"Night of the Scarecrow" was pretty good. I just keep hoping and looking...

Emily said...

Your search for a scary scarecrow film reminds me of my own search for a scary Bloody Mary film, also based on a childhood fear of mine. I believe it originated from a birthday party I had in 2nd grade when one of my friends told the story. Ever since then I've really wanted to see a Bloody Mary film that lives up to my expectations- the closest I've gotten to finding this so far is in Candyman where it's at least a similar legend, and also an episode of Supernatural. Hopefully someday you'll find your scary scarecrow film, and I'll find my Bloody Mary film!!

The Mike said...

Thanks all. I will keep up my search for my scarecrow, believe you me. On the bright, pondering the story in my memory has helped me find said short story that terrified me as a kid. It will be coming to the pages of FMWL soonest!