There is something wicked coming this way as the Pang Brothers and Ghost House Pictures join forces for a chilling new thriller. An ominous darkness invades a seemingly serene sunflower farm in North Dakota and the Solomon family (Stewart, McDermott, Miller) is torn apart by suspicion, mayhem and murder.
There is evidence to suggest that children are highly susceptible to paranormal phenomenon. They can see what adults cannot, they believe what adults deny. And they are trying to warn us. In “The Messengers,” a suspense thriller starring Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller and John Corbett, the Solomon family has left big city life for a secluded farm in North Dakota.
Soon after they arrive at their new home, 16 year-old Jess and her 3 year old brother begin seeing ominous apparitions that no one else can see, and are repeatedly attacked by something from the other side. Now they must try desperately to warn the rest of the family before it’s too late.
In The Messengers, a thriller starring Kristen Stewart as Jess, Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller as Jess’ parents Roy and Denise Solomon and John Corbett as field hand John Burwell, the Solomon family has left the fast paced life of Chicago for the secluded world of a North Dakota farm. Amidst the tranquil sway of the farm’s field of sunflowers, Jess, 16, soon realizes how terrifying seclusion can be when she and her brother Ben, 3, begin seeing ominous apparitions invisible to everyone else.
When those specters become violent, Jess’ sanity is questioned – a double jeopardy for the tormented teen. Her troublesome past comes face to face with the past of those who once lived in the house, a perilous confrontation that leaves her believability in question with those she desperately tries to warn before it is too late.
About the Production
Nothing is what it seems on the Solomon farm. What goes bump in the night happens by day. Tranquility is the haven for terror. And the harbingers of doom are gravely underestimated. Directors Danny Pang & Oxide Pang have turned the ghost genre inside out with THE MESSENGERS, their first American feature film and English language debut. It was their real life brush with the paranormal that influenced their enhancement of the story from page to screen.
Fans of their previous work got a hint of that experience in THE EYE. “It is the escalator scene. One time I saw this guy and he just walked into the elevator,” recalls Director Danny Pang. “I followed him and when I walked in, there was no one there. I was living on the 12th floor. From the 12th floor to the ground it was about 30 seconds. In my mind it was about an hour because I was really scared inside those 30 seconds.”
For his identical twin and the film’s co-director Oxide Pang, “it was around 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I saw the shadow of a person walking but it was only the shadow. I can see the shadow but no person and it wasn’t only me. I saw it for about a minute walking on the road and then I asked my friend, `can you see that?’ And he could. So the time was really long.” Those experiences “gave us a concept.”
That concept would expand the fear factor of Mark Wheaton, who wrote the screenplay, and Todd Farmer, who wrote the original story. “One of the most interesting things about working with the Pangs comes from having a non-American perspective on a very traditional American setting – rolling plains, a Midwestern family farm, a small rural community,” says Wheaton.
Although the Pangs’ first language is Cantonese, Wheaton says he did not find language to be a barrier in the collaborative process. “The Pangs are so visual, much of what they brought to the table in the script stage involved them simply penciling out how they’d shoot a certain scare or set piece on infinite scraps of paper, so the language barrier really wasn’t a problem. I’d submit script pages, we’d discuss how the Pangs would approach it visually, I’d rewrite the pages that night and a couple of days later, they’d come back with storyboards.”
Dylan McDermott, who plays Roy Solomon, found the language differences a plus. “Sometimes you don’t want directors to speak English,” he quips. “I think if they trust you and then understand what you’re trying to convey, it’s about the vision. These guys have a clear vision about what they wanted for this picture and it works.”
The end result was essentially “a unique ghost story from the Pangs’ point of view,” says Producer Jason Shuman. “I have been a huge fan of the Pangs for years and when I heard they were looking for an American project, were interested in doing a ghost story and were extremely excited about the prospect of working with Sam Raimi, I knew we had the ingredients.
They came and added what I like to call Pang vision, their sense of style, horror and way of creating tension that’s completely distinctive. They really have a symbiotic mind. They can be together and you can ask them a very detailed question and they don’t even need to look at each other. They don’t need to confirm with each other. They are totally on the same wavelength – this one unified vision they share.”
And that, he says, proved critical when “they took the story in the script and they kept working with Sam and the writers and talent and together they created this interpretive vision we’ve never seen.”
That vision “is a way of approaching horror that’s fresh in an overworked genre,” adds Raimi. “What they have to offer is that fresh perspective. Both bring an incredibly unique talent that can’t be defined by the norm.”
Co-Directors Danny Pang & Oxide Pang were thrilled at the prospect of working on a Hollywood film, particularly with Sam Raimi, whom they had admired for years. Their unique style of co-directing, where they trade off days at the helm, would make them the perfect directors to bring the vision to the screen.
They firmly believed they could heighten the terror and when they met with Raimi, “we told him we just wanted to put a greater scare element in the movie, but at the same time try and make it logical,” says Danny. “Our style is always about the silence because we find that the really scary aspects always come from the silence,” adds Oxide. “We don’t think it is scary when there is so much sound, when it comes from so many directions, so many people. To us, what is scary is when you are alone and the room is completely quiet. We didn’t need the rain for effect. We didn’t need to have the electricity go off. We didn’t want to see all the effects that you see in horror movies. We didn’t want it all to happen at night.”
That approach is what Producer William Sherak found most alluring and unnerving. “When you say horror you automatically think nighttime. What they are doing is making the daytime scary. At nighttime, turning on the lights is a way out of the fear. But in the daytime, the lights are already on so to speak so there is nowhere to go. If we can tap into people’s basic fears in the daytime… with the lights on, we can turn the horror genre on its head.”
Penelope Ann Miller, who plays Roy’s wife Denise, found the Pangs’ dual directing intriguing. “I could tell them apart by their glasses,” Miller recalls. “We’d shoot one scene in the morning and it would be Danny directing and the next scene, in the afternoon or the next day, it would be Oxide.” While one was shooting, the other was editing the footage he shot the day before.
But it was other cultural differences that stood out. “We are a culture that communicates, maybe over communicates and I think they are accustomed to the practice of less is more,” she says. “I remember there was this scene where Dylan had to deliver one line and he asked if he could go back to the beginning and get more into the mood of the scene. Oxide was confused: `Why do you need to do that? I don’t need it you know.’ But in acting we are taught to be spontaneous and instinctive and free and they are very precise where they want your head and look to be, like a photo shoot, not too many head or eye movements. Because they are editors as well, they are editing while they are shooting and they know where their cuts will be. And they really don’t want to waste extra time for a shot that only needs one line. But it was interesting because the next day Danny was asking me to go back to this one scene and get into the emotion of it. So they came around and we came around. It was an adjustment, finding a compromise.
“They would say things like, `you have to empty your cup to drink from my tea.’ They like to speak in proverbs and they use them a lot,” Miller adds. “They believe you have to throw away all of your preconceived ideas about working with them or any director and trust them. I was really impressed in the end with their instincts about when a scene works and when it doesn’t.”
John Corbett, who plays John Burwell, a drifter who the Solomons befriend after hiring him to work day labor on the farm, says the Pang brothers have “great sensibilities and even though I’m sure they’re completely different in many ways, when they’re both together and I’m talking to them I liked to think of them as sort of one being split in two. It kind of plays to that whole cool element of the weirdness of working on a horror movie, whole head vibe when you’re playing a character like Burwell who is very mercurial.”
Continue Reading and View the Theatrical Trailer
The Messengers (2007)
Directed by: Oxide Pang, Danny Pang
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, John Corbett, Evan Turner, Theodore Turner, Jodelle Ferland, Tatiana Maslany, Shirley McQueen, Anna Hagan
Screenplay by: Mark Wheaton, Stuart Beattie, Todd Farmer
Production Design by: Alicia Keywan
Cinematography by: David Geddes
Film Editing by: John Axelrad, Armen Minasian
Costume Design by: Mary Hyde-Kerr, Cathy McComb
Set Decoration by: Henry Thomas Earle, Sara McCudden
Art Direction by: Ken Watkins
Music by: Joseph LoDuca
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing violence and terror.
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: February 2, 2007