Say have you heard the one about the troubled family that forsakes the trials and tribulations of city life for a bucolic new life on a rustic farm out in the middle of nowhere? It’s never a good idea to move into a house when the previous residents of said farm vanished without a trace—and it’s still not a good idea here. Soon teenager Jess (Kristen Stewart) and her three-year-old brother begin seeing ominous apparitions invisible to everyone else. When those specters become violent Jess' sanity is questioned--a double jeopardy for the tormented teen. Stewart Jodie Foster’s endangered daughter in Panic Room is appropriately moody and plucky as the terrorized teen whom no one believes. Penelope Ann Miller and Dylan McDermott are both suitably dense as Mom and Dad with twins Evan and Theodore Turner suitably spooky as the wide-eyed baby brother who can see everything. X-Files regular William B. Davis sans cigarette drops in a couple of times as the local real-estate agent and a grizzled John Corbett plays a shotgun-toting farm hand who the family hires with surprisingly little hesitation. There’s only so much the actors can do with the material and they pretty much do it. Directors Danny and Oxide Pang veterans of such popular Asian scarefests as The Eye and Ab-normal Beauty know their way around a scare and The Messengers has some decent jolts along the way. Ultimately however the peskiest of all problems – the plot – tends to get in the way. As the story pieces fall into place the film itself tends to fall apart. In addition this is yet another horror film that has been given a box-office-friendlier PG-13 rating (in the February issue of Fangoria co-star Corbett makes his displeasure known about this issue). This is the Pang brothers’ first stateside project and despite their stylistic touches there’s an unmistakable sense of selling out.
Wong Kar Mun (Lee Sin-Je) has been blind since the age of two. After 18 years she has fully adapted to her disability never knowing what she has missed. Until that is a new medical procedure gives her her sight back through an advanced corneal transplant. The young girl finally enters the world of light and images but has trouble comprehending what she sees. She doesn't understand what is real and what is not because she has no point of reference. But that isn't all. Mun sees more with her new eyes than she expected--Mun sees dead people. Almost going mad from the constant stream of apparitions before her Mun suddenly discovers to her horror that the image she thought was herself is in fact another woman--Ling (Chutcha Rujinanon) the corneas' original owner. Mun realizes she is recalling Ling's memories and seeing through her eyes--literally. With her boyfriend/psychotherapist Lee Sin (Lawrence Chou) Mun travels to Thailand in search for answers on who Ling was as well as unravel the mystery of her death.
All the other characters being peripheral to Mun's circumstances Lee Sin-Je amply carries the whole movie on her own making her blindness totally believable as well as showing how Mun adjusts to her new world of sight.. She also expertly pulls off the scenes where Mun goes stark raving mad displaying truly chilling abilities. This actress is worthy of attention. In the supporting role as her boyfriend and psychotherapist Lee Sin Lawrence Chou simply works as more as a sidekick never realizing utilizing his part and coming off fairly bland.
The camera effects and editing are well done but ultimately the story fails to live up to the expectations it builds in the beginning. Borrowing from The Sixth Sense Jacob's Ladder and Final Destination directors Danny Pang and Oxide Pang try to heighten the suspense of whole "dead people" horror scenario by introducing the uneasy awareness of one's inescapable fate but ultimately it falls short. The pace of the story zooms along but the scenes seem to run together and you wade through a murky story line rather than a frightening one. Unfortunately the really scary scenes are few and far between in what is supposedly a psychological thriller. The rest of the film is unable to perpetuate the fear it creates.