The Messengers

In the prologue to “The Messengers,” creepy things happen to a family on a dark night long ago. Then, in the present, a family moves to a huge, forlorn house in the middle of nowhere, and strange things start to happen. Why, it’s as if an evil presence still lurks there….

Does it sound familiar? Maybe that’s because it’s the same set-up to every horror film released in the last five years. If you’ve seen “The Grudge,” “The Amityville Horror,” “The Ring,” “Dark Water,” “They,” “Boogeyman,” or a dozen other titles I could name, you’ve seen “The Messengers.”

The story follows the Solomon family as they move into a dilapidated North Dakota farmhouse and start raising a crop of sunflowers. Roy (Dylan McDermott) has been out of work for a while, Denise (Penelope Ann Miller) is at odds with their sullen teenage daughter, Jess (Kristen Stewart), and li’l toddler Ben (Evan and Theodore Turner) … well, he’s fine. Except he doesn’t speak. But hey, a silent toddler, who’s complaining?

Anyway, Roy wants to be a sunflower farmer, going so far as to hire an itinerant laborer named Burwell (John Corbett) to live on the property and help him cultivate the land. Meanwhile, Jess and Ben start seeing strange apparitions and hearing eerie noises — the standard supernatural phenomena you find in old houses in scary movies. Oh, and there are a lot of crows outside, and they’re agitated about something. And so forth.

Apart from being completely derivative and lacking even one original idea, it’s not a bad movie. “Unnecessary” is more the word I would use. Directed by brothers Danny Pang and Oxide Pang, the Hong Kong duo behind 2002’s effectively creepy “The Eye” (watch for a bad American remake next year), “The Messengers” achieves a few genuinely spooky moments, often by eliminating all but the ambient sound, making us feel the silence of the house. Of course, for this to be effective, the cinema audience will have to be quiet, too, which is unlikely. Still, it’s a nice try.

Note: The title “The Messengers” is not explained. If there are entities in the film that are trying to convey a message, they are doing a poor job of it.

C (1 hr., 30 min.; PG-13, a little profanity, a little violence, lots of intense situations.)