Please tell me if there’s an existing category for this well-chewed cinematic scenario: Family suffers some kind of urban-based trauma and then decides to relocate to a nice, quiet, haunted house in the boonies. The Shining is the most obvious example, but there are dozens of pale imitations, including this quaint little Kristen Stewart vehicle from five years back.

Directed by Hong Kong power players the Pang Brothers (The Eye films, Bangkok Dangerous, among others), The Messengers is first and foremost, a serviceable platform for Stewart’s photogenic adolescent petulance, brought to the screen courtesy of the boffo box-office returns of The Twilight saga. Rising to the challenge, the spunky little minx actually carries the movie. Of course, when you’re costarring with one-note Wonder Bread like Dylan McDermott (Dad) and Penelope Ann Miller (Mom), you needn’t have been Lee Strasberg’s star pupil to dominate the screen. Still, Stewart gamely steps up to the plate, exuding Buffy confidence while delivering her lines with Locklearian panache. (BTW, am I the only one who confuses Dylan McDermott with Dermot Mulroney? Surely not!)

In The Messengers, Stewart stars as Jess, the rebellious progeny of McDermott and Miller, who are leaving the temptations of Sodom and Gomorrah in the rearview mirror in order to get back to the land, specifically as sunflower farmers in rural Saskatchewan. You gotta admit; that’s a new one. Sure enough, the family’s optimism for a fresh start is soon crushed to crumbs when it appears that their rustic farmhouse comes with creepy crawly specters of the previous occupants, who fell victim to a case of Jack Torrance Syndrome, also known as Daddy’s Got The Axe, Again.

This was a Ghost House production and Sam Raimi was one of the executive producers. The Pangs do a decent job of combining their talent for weaving blankets of dread with Raimi’s trademark splashy spookhouse shocks. The Messengers is a 100 percent sustainable movie, because the entire plot consists of recycled material, but even so, the filmmakers went to considerable effort to pique our interest, and we don’t have to work too hard to swallow the Ghoul-Aid. (Please read the last sentence in a Crypt Keeper voice. It sounds better.)

At the moment I’m leaning toward “Buyer Beware” as the name of this genre. “Real Estate Gone Wrong,” maybe? “Glengarry Glen MURDER?”

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