The master producer, Jason Blum, who gave us gut-clenchers like Insidious and Paranormal Activity has returned. This time, with Jessabelle. The movie tells the not-so-ghostly tale of Jessie (Sarah Snook), who after a near fatal car crash, returns to her childhood home in Louisiana. Confined to a wheelchair, she lives with her once estranged father, in a creepy mansion. Here she finds old VHS cassettes of her mother reading tarot cards for Jessie. Unfortunately for our heroine, every time her mother reads the cards, Jessie’s death is foretold.
Soon enough, Jessie finds herself being scared senseless by vivid glimpses of a zombie lookalike of hers. People start dropping dead around her and no good seems to come to those who hang around with Jessie. However, Preston (Mark Webber), an old lover from high school, gallantly swoops in and tries to help her figure out what is haunting her. Around Louisiana they go, digging up old graves, going for boat rides, discovering family secrets and finding voodoo dolls, decapitated chickens and mystical rituals.
Sarah Snook comes across as a good enough scream queen, and is convincing as a gentle young woman. What mars her performance, however, is the overly familiar script, that seems to be a hodgepodge of voodoo-infused ghost movies. Mark Webber also fails to impress with his acting. What deserves a mention is Greg Hedgepath’s sound design, which manages to make something like a translucent curtain or an old bathtub seem eerie.
Jessabelle isn’t exactly a horror movie. It just happens to be filled with run-of-the-mill clichés. It packs some mildly unnerving jump scares and unnecessary gross situations. Director Kevin Greutert (of Saw VII fame) does manage to create some tense moments with isolated scenes, but again, they’re not enough to make us shudder. The film takes way too much time building the mystery and even more time trying to explain it. Because of this, Jessabelle falls short of being a scary movie by a huge margin.
Why you should watch this film?
With good locales, a somewhat-decent performance by Sarah Snook and some tense moments, Jessabelle isn’t all that bad. Greg Hedgepath’s sound design is certainly commendable. Watch out for a couple of freaky moments, especially the one with the gruesome shower scene.
By Karan Raikar