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THE MESSENGERS

Don't Shoot The Messenger
"And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting…. just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted- nevermore!”

-- Edgar Allen Poe, THE RAVEN

"The crows are like a signal, a kind of warning but they cannot speak. So they must try to communicate through their actions,” says Oxide Pang. "They are a messenger to the living.”

Messengers, adds his brother Danny, that "are difficult to control.” THE MESSENGERS' crows are really ravens imported from the Czech Republic, owned and trained by Ota Bares, a raven trainer from Prague.

"They are a very eerie bird,” notes Producer Sherak. "You always wonder whether or not they are protecting the Solomons, warning them, or something more sinister. They are a very smart bird and that definitely comes across.” Notes Bares, whose birds have appeared in BLACK DAHLIA and COLD MOUNTAIN, "sometimes it can be difficult to make them do what you want because they are just thinking too much.”

Visual Effects Supervisor Bruce Jones, whose job was to duplicate Bares' flock of 25 ravens by the thousands through imaging, calls the bird actors portraying crows "psycho pumps. They are characters that live between the land of the living and the land of the dead. When we see a `crow' show up, we think it is an evil character. But in a sense they are actually warning us there's another evil coming. We don't know that and so we think they are bad.”

For Production Designer Alicia Keywan, "I find the birds very scary. Who didn't see Hitchcock's (1963 horror classic) THE BIRDS? Birds will always have that connotation for me. They're quite spectacular.”

For Stewart's character Jess they are a constant in her world on the farm. "They become this permanent fixture,” she says. "At first I (Jess) see them as part of life on a sunflower farm, always flying around until I realize they always seem to be there when situations turn creepy. When my character first comes into the house, she's checking it out and a black thing kind of flashes by the window. They're very mysterious, very ominous and are always messing with my (character's) head.”

It was the "messing with the head' part that terrified Corbett, literally. "I was really nervous having them around my face because there are a couple of scenes where they attack and you can lose an eye quickly with a little peck,” Corbett says. "I'm not a fan of birds anyway because I had a parrot that almost took my finger off a couple of times. So they gave me a bird double, Petr Staka, and he is used to having them crawl all over him.” Staka is one of Bares' assistants from the Czech Republic. Corbett believes it is because the crows are actually ravens that the scenes with the birds come off as so terrifying. "They have these big beaks that are long and thick and strong necks and talons…a predator like an eagle or a hawk.”

Although intimidating, Bares says they are loyal and friendly birds, "remembering things for a long time and can even recognize a (former) owner after 10 years.”

Producer Shuman lauded Bares' handling of the ravens, adding "they are so well trained with probably better credits than I have!”

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