Synopsis of “Jessabelle” via IMDB:
“Returning to her childhood home in Louisiana to recuperate from a horrific car accidnet, Jessabelle comes face to face with a long-tormented spirit that has been seeking her return and has no intention of letting her escape.”
“Jessabelle” stars Australian actress Sara Snook (”Predestination”), and begins with one of the most recent over-used movie cliche scares: a side-impact car crash. Yeah, you know the ones I’m talking about. That instantly put me off, but I didn’t allow it to curb my enthusiasm for horror movie viewing and persevered.
Allow me to digress for a moment and discuss Ms. Snook. She is the reason (besides it being horror) I chose this particular film to review. I enjoyed her so much in “Predestination” that I figured she’d make the movie worth my time. I know she can act; I’ve seen her do it. Sadly, this movie was not one in which her talent was showcased. I suppose she tried and I suppose the director tried and I give them both an A for effort. Having her incapacitated and wheelchair-bound was, I guess, an “actor’s challenge.” Her lovely physique is utilized by clothing her in low-cut sundresses. Is that creepy? Maybe, but who cares?
Getting back to the story, a newly pregnant Jessabelle and her boyfriend are off to start a new life (I think) when their plans are literally crushed by a fatal car accident (side-crash cliche) that kills her boyfriend and leaves her both in a coma and childless. Jessabelle is hospitalized for awhile and, as mentioned, wheelchair-bound and in need of care until she’s able to walk again. She has no family other than a distant father whom she is sent to live with after being released from the hospital.
The setting is the deep South, in the Louisiana bayou, which lends eeriness, and thoughts of voodoo and the supernatural to the proceedings. She’s given her deceased mother’s old bedroom complete with her mother’s old bed, old wardrobe and old mirror. She soon finds VHS tapes and naturally, since everything else in the house seems to have not move on in the past 25 years, finds a VCR. It is here where the movie gets interesting, as Jessabelle discovers who, and what, she is through recordings of her dead mother.
Jessabelle is then haunted by the spirit of a long-haired girl very reminiscent of Samara from “The Ring.” As the mystery unfolds it becomes clearer that Jessabelle isn’t so much a character herself but a plot device used to subject the audience to a “twist-ending” that under further scrutiny falls apart due to lack of logic. The denouement is particularly clunky relying on strained exposition to convey the far-fetched conclusion.
This movie is directed by Kevin Greutert who edited all of the “Saw” films and directed the final two. “Jessabelle” is his first movie outside of the “Saw” franchise, and represents his chance to develop his own creative vision without being constrained by franchise filmmaking. Unfortunately, he didn’t flex much stylistic muscle and the movie actually becomes a chore to watch after the initial mystery loses its power. The short runtime feels longer than it really should.
“Jessabelle” did have some decent scares and overall creepiness. One particular scene featured Evil Dead-esque vomit-in-the-face that was satisfyingly grotesque. Another scene where Jessabelle is tormented by a supernatural presence in her bedroom was enough to creep me out. But, a couple of decent scenes are not enough to give a resounding recommendation to horror fans who can do much better (but they could also do much worse). Perhaps if the movie pushed the R-rated horror envelope a little more rather than being restricted to PG-13, I may have been more impressed.