Synopsis: From the mastermind producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious comes the ghostly tale of Jessabelle.Â Returning to her childhood home in Louisiana to recuperate from a horrific car accident, Jessabelle (Sarah Snook of Sleeping Beauty) comes face to face with a long-tormented spirit that has been seeking her return — and has no intention of letting her escape.
Release Date: November 7, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Supernatural horror is really hot right now. Ghosts and demons have ruled the recent box office, with this year alone seeing Annabelle, Ouija, and Oculus packing theaters. Unfortunately, for every The Conjuring there is bound to be a The Apparition, and Jessabelle is one of this year’s clunkers.
Jessabelle is the story of a young woman named Jessie (Sarah Snook from Not Suitable for Children) who is involved in an accident that not only claims the life of her fiance and her unborn child, but leaves her paralyzed from the waist down. With no place else to go, the wheelchair-bound Jessie is forced to move in with her father (David Andrews from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) while she recuperates from her injuries. Jessie’s father puts her in the only downstairs bedroom, a room that was previously occupied by her cancer-stricken mother before she passed on. While snooping around the room, Jessie finds a stack of videotapes and, when she pops one into the VCR, is pleased to see a posthumous message from her mother (High Fidelity‘s Joelle Carter). On the tape, Jessie’s mother does an impromptu tarot card reading, but freaks out when the cards reveal a frightening fact about Jessie and a hostile spirit that resides in the house. Along with her childhood friend, Preston (Mark Webber from Laggies), Jessie tries to solve the mystery of the ghost in her house before the ghost can do her or her family any more harm.
Director Kevin Greutert comes from the Saw family of filmmakers; he edited the first five Saw movies before being tapped to direct the last two. His experience is apparent in Jessabelle, as the film itself is pretty solid from a technical standpoint. Thanks to Greutert’s direction and some slick cinematography by Michael Fimognari (Oculus, Crawlspace), the house becomes its own character, with spooky lighting shifts that become whole set changes right before the viewer’s eyes. Jessie’s mother’s tapes even throw a welcome new spin on the whole tired found-footage angle in the same way that Sinister did a couple of years ago. For its part, Jessabelle tries to be a creative little ghost story.
The problems with Jessabelle are in the script. Written by Robert Ben Garant (Hell Baby), the storyline is full of the same old cliches and stereotypes which have been exhausting audiences for years. There are a few shocking moments, but even the biggest of those comes in the first few minutes, and it’s all downhill from there. It’s really a frustrating movie; it’s shot well, the acting is decent (even stellar in the case of lead actress Sarah Snook), and there are little pockets of greatness in the writing that instill hope in the viewer that a better movie is going to develop. During the first act, the audience is rooting for it to be good – they really want to like it. The beginning of the film actually does show a lot of promise, but it fades away quickly. The inventive moments are wasted and the film devolves into just another ghost story…and not a very good one, at that. Ultimately, Jessabelle doesn’t live up to the hype that it builds for itself. Add in the fact that it’s got the stupidest ending this side of Mama, and Jessabelle becomes memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Despite some creepy imagery, Jessabelle isn’t all that scary. It’s startling in places, but it suffers from the same auditory problems that plagued The Quiet Ones earlier this year; all of the scares are built around blowing out the audience’s eardrums. The film does a decent job of creating the mood and setting up good scares, but every suspenseful situation just ends with sudden ear-splitting volume spikes that cause the viewer to jump, but not out of fright – out of irritation. It’s a bit of a shame, because a few honest scares could have helped move the weak plot along, but all Jessabelle does is flaunt the sort of tension-and-release that is best experienced on VOD or home video so that the viewer can control the volume level without going deaf.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Kevin Greutert
- Screenwriter(s): Robert Ben Garant
- Cast: Sarah Snook (Jessie)Joelle Carter (Kate)Mark Webber (Preston) David Andrews (Leon)Ana de la Reguera (Rosaura)Amber Stevens (Dead Girl)
- Editor(s): Kevin Greutert
- Cinematographer: Michael Fimognari
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Anton Sanko
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA