The words “I see dead people” are a staple among any list of iconic film quotations, and countless supernatural and horror films have since been fixated with the idea of life after death. This year, it is the turn of BAFTA-winning director David Blair to interpret the theme, transporting it to a grim town in the north of England.
Unsettlingly shot in a naturalistic style, The Messenger is fragmented, and at some points confusing, darting between the past and present of its main character, who is haunted by the dead and begrudgingly carries out their final requests. In the lead role as Jack, a scruffy recluse tortured to near insanity by the voices in his head, Robert Sheehan gives a crackling, unhinged performance, which dwarfs the other elements of the film. Muttering to himself and fleeing the camera as it confronts him, it is clear we are witnessing the torment of a man with important work to do, but to whom no one will listen.
His performance has a great deal of work to do to make up for the shortcomings of the other characters. The women seem to exist solely as dramatic devices, present only to drink and have miscarriages, and the rest seem cut from similar stereotypes, such as the heartless lawyer and the overly understanding therapist.
On the whole, The Messenger is beautifully, inventively shot, and has its moments of power and impact. However, rarely do these moments link together to form a coherent or convincing plot, with the conclusion tipping dangerously into the realms of soap opera melodrama. It is Sheehan’s electrifying performance which ties it together, and, as such, the film works best if viewed as a character study rather than a horror or psychological thriller. Nevertheless, it is a worthy British independent film, and a refreshing one to view in the midst of a summer filled with sequels and franchises.
The Messenger is released nationwide on 25th September 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Messenger here: