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Messengers 2: The Scarecrow (2009)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/21/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/1/2009

Boogeyman 2, Boogeyman 3, The Grudge 3 -- What do all of these movies have in common? They are all direct-to-video sequels to films which were hits for Ghost House Pictures, the company overseen by Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert. What else do they have in common? They are all awful. The good thing about Raimi and Tapert is that they are willing to let up-and-coming directors take a crack at their sequels, which is a very altruistic thing to do. The bad thing is that the movies are often threadbare cheapies which are boring. The Messengers was a minor hit for Ghost House in 2007, and now we have the direct-to-video sequel, Messengers 2: The Scarecrow. I guess another stinker has arrived.

Messengers 2: The Scarecrow introduces us to the Rollins family, who live on a corn farm. John (Norman Reedus) has fallen on hard times and he's doing what he can to keep his family together and the farm in business. The water pump is broken, so he can't irrigate his corn. He owes money to the bank and can't buy new supplies. His wife, Mary (Heather Stephens), is very devoted to him, and his kids, Lindsey (Claire Holt) and Michael (Laurence Belcher), do what they can to help. John is a church-going, God-fearing man, but the thought of losing his farm is starting to get to him. In a fit of rage, he throws things around the barn, and discovers a small door. Behind this door is an old, creepy scarecrow. As crows are a major problem on the farm, he places the scarecrow in the field. The next day, all of the crows are dead. From there, John's luck continues to get better and the corn begins to flourish. However, he begins to change and Mary senses this change. When people close to the Rollins begin to die, Mary suspects that evil is afoot.

The Messengers was an interesting movie because it marked the American debut of Asian filmmakers The Pang Brothers, who directed the monumental The Eye. The film dealt with a family who lived on a farm which was plagued with ghosts. The result was a visually interesting film which didn't feel very original. However, the original script by Todd Farmer actually dealt with an evil scarecrow, but when The Pangs came on-board the premise was changed to ghosts. The producers then decided to re-visit the original script for a prequel.

The trailer for Messengers 2: The Scarecrow promised to show what happened before The Messengers -- that it's going to tell the story of the family who inhabited the farm before the new owners moved in. But, this is somewhat misleading, as the events in the movie don't really correspond to the flashbacks seen in The Messengers. In essence, this movie stands on its own.

And, you know what? It's not terrible. As with some of the other Ghost House films, Messengers 2: The Scarecrow was shot in Eastern Europe. But, unlike, say Boogeyman 3, it doesn't have a cheap look. Director Martin Barnewitz has wisely chosen to keep the bulk of the action contained to the farm, which looks like the location from the first film. He also keeps things moving along at a pretty good clip, save for a lone nude shot which just goes on and on.

The story is an odd co-mingling of The Shining and Field of Dreams. John goes into the corn and hears whispering voices. Once he puts the scarecrow in place, magical things begin to happen. He then begins to change...and it's implied that he falls off of the wagon and begins to drink again (well, we certainly see him drink again, but it's unclear if he was an alcoholic or if he shunned drinking due to his religion). As he changes, his family becomes afraid of him. Does all of this sound familiar? And while the movie certainly isn't original, it offers enough interesting sights and sounds. Those looking for gore will be disappointed and the ending gets a bit convoluted, but a bulk of the movie works.

Which brings us to the most important point -- the scarecrow. It seems that it would be really easy to make a scary scarecrow movie, but no one has been able to do it thus far. (I mean, have you seen Dark Harvest?) In Messengers 2: The Scarecrow, the scarecrow first appears about 10 minutes into the movie, but it takes about 82 minutes for any real scarecrow action to begin. And when it does, it's nearly effective. For a change, the monster is real instead of CGI and this helps a great deal. Also, the scarecrow makes a crazy high-pitched noise which is certainly unexpected. It's not the scarecrow movie that I've been dying to see, but given the track record of Ghost House Pictures, Messengers 2: The Scarecrow is actually worth a rental.

Messengers 2: The Scarecrow gets funky in a trailer on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a very slight amount of grain and one spot from the source material. The colors look realistic, although I certainly wouldn't call this a colorful movie -- it tends to stay in the neutrals. The only drawback to the video is that the image is slightly dark at times. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. For a direct-to-video film, we get a nice audio display here, and the mix does a great job of emphasizing creepy sounds in the cornfield. The stereo effects are good and nicely detailed. The surround sound effects are excellent and we get a true sense of being surrounded by sounds in the corn. The "scare" effects are amplified by subwoofer stings.

The lone extra on this DVD is an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Martin Barnewitz and Writer Todd Farmer, who, interestingly enough, met face-to-face for the first time when recording this talk. This is a pretty good chat, as the two alternate between discussing the specifics of shooting the film in Bulgaria, and the story. Farmer talks about his script and some things which were changed.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long