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THE MESSENGERS

The Haunted Mind
Psychotherapy and mythic story telling share a common metaphor – utilizing the haunted house to replicate the haunted mind. Some rooms are too painful to enter, some inner demons buried deep in the basement of the subconscious, too terrifying to explore. And often the irritating unresolved that continuously rattles around in the hallways of the unconscious is what the mind tries to rationalize away. It is why, says Producer Rob Tapert, horror films played out in haunted houses are so effective, the anticipation of the scare, the heightened sense of dread. It is why the buildup never ceases to render audiences spellbound and why the haunted house strikes a common nerve.

It is what Jess experiences on both levels, her mental torment reflected in her outer world. "This is a ghost story about a family who moves into this house that's haunted and the girl is pretty much the only one who's being affected by these supernatural beings and no one else believes her,” says Actress Kristen Stewart, who plays Jess. "It is crazy because these things are attacking my character and no one else has ever seen them.”

No one except her 3-year-old brother Ben, who she realizes has always seen them but he doesn't speak. Jess' awareness is more gradual. "My character is trying to figure it out and thinks maybe she is crazy, maybe none of this is really happening and she's been going through a lot and this is how it is manifesting itself,” explains Stewart. "But it turns out it is not a figment of her imagination at all. When something happens in the middle of the night, that's too weird to explain, she doesn't have the family support system to wake them up and say `look something's going on.' And the thing is her family would love to be there for her but they're in a weird stage of their relationship and the trust is gone.

"She's already completely isolated living on this farm in the middle of nowhere and she doesn't want to be there, but she figures there's nothing she can do about it. And her parents know that she doesn't want to be there, so she can't really tell her parents what she's experiencing because they think she's nuts and they don't believe her. So she gets to a point where she needs to figure out why this is happening because if no one else is going to help her, she has to do it herself.”

For Jess' mother Denise, Miller says the loss of trust in her daughter builds tension in what is essentially a happy relationship with her husband Roy. "I (Denise) can't count on my daughter, can't rely on her. (In Chicago), Jess got into some real trouble and my character is having a hard time forgiving her. She sees her daughter as being overly dramatic and wanting to go back to Chicago and I think, on some level, maybe feels she's failed her as a parent. There's a real dance going on between us and in suspense, a horror film, there's a lot of character driven dramatic content that you don't usually see.”

Pulling from his own experience, McDermott remembers "I was a mess when I was a kid. It is complicated when kids become teenagers, a lot of angst and a lot of emotion. There is a scene where Jess ends up with cuts on her neck and it becomes very worrisome for my character. Is she delusional? What's going to happen to my daughter? Maybe what happened in Chicago wasn't one isolated incident. Where is she emotionally? This house is so ominous and behind the door its dark and you're on this farm and nobody's around. So it is this sense of isolation and being sort of lost in it.” And, Roy is haunted by his own decision to uproot his family and chase his dream of working the farm and returning to his roots after realizing he didn't fit in the big city.

"There are a lot of metaphors in this movie. It's American Gothic, the farm, the sunflower crop, the crows, the pitchfork, the one-time dream of the fa

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