Messages

Messages

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Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Richard Murray (Jeff Fahey) is a hospital pathologist who has been struggling with a drink problem since the death of his wife. When he starts to receive mysterious messages which could be from her, he wonders if he's losing his mind. To make matters worse, there's a serial killer on the loose, and the former girlfriend whom he turns to for psychoanalysis and support begins to wonder if he might, unknown to himself, be the murderer.

Messages is an ambitious little film with rather too many ideas for its own good. On the one hand it's clearly trying to compete with Hollywood thrillers, whilst on the other it aims for realism. Written by pathologist Wayne Kinsey, it's an interesting attempt to incorporate pathology into a thriller without going down the CSI route into investigations which real pathologists simply do not perform. The tension between medical and police personnel is nicely handled, though it's unfortunate that some of this relies on the humiliation of a stereotypical American detective, creating an awkward sort of self-conscious humour which will only succeed in making most viewers uncomfortable. Throughout much of the film, it's hard to tell what was intended as humorous and what has merely failed as drama; several clear attempts at jokes fall flat, but there's still plenty to laugh at as the clich├ęs pile up.

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In developing its central characters, Messages makes more effort than the average thriller, and the central idea, whereby Murray is uncertain of his own guilt or innocence, is an interesting one. The background problems and social awkwardness suffered by several characters flesh things out nicely, though this is marred by some exceptionally hammy performances, especially from Jon-Paul Gates as the local vicar. Kim Thomson acquits herself well as Murray's ex girlfriend, though she's rather less convincing as a psychologist, especially towards the end when, imperiled, she seems to lack even the most basic insight whereby she might influence her tormentor.

With so many plot strands tangled together, Messages doesn't seem to know where it's going any more than the audience does; this makes for an effective mystery, but rather along the lines of one of those Sherlock Holmes thrillers where the great detective solves the puzzle using a piece of evidence never made available to the audience. Rambling and incoherent, it simply throws another corpse into the mix every time things threaten to slow down, but as a result it becomes harder for the viewer to care about the victims as individuals. One also has to wonder how the killer finds time to commit quite so many brutal acts - doesn't he have a day job? Trying to follow all this and make sense of supernatural plot elements at the same time left me feeling as if I'd drunk as much as Murray.

If you like serial killer movies, Messages may not have the tightest story but it does deliver on gore. If you like ghost stories, it does a fairly good job, though it could have done without the white floaty clothing. With choppy editing and poorly balanced sound, it can't help but look amateurish, but it makes a brave attempt to cross genres and create a horror story with genuinely human elements. Still, it's hard to imagine this ending up on anyone's favourites list.

Reviewed on: 14 Jun 2007
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A doctor with a drink problem starts receiving messages which seem to be from his dead wife, whilst a serial killer stalks the neighbourhood.
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Director: David Fairman

Writer: Wayne Kinsey, Ivan Levene

Starring: Jeff Fahey, Kim Thomson, Jon-Paul Gates, Martin Kove, Bruce Payne, Geraldine Alexander, Eileen Daly

Year: 2007

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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