Monday, 2 February 2015

Horrors of 2014: Jessabelle (2014)

Jessabelle (2014)
Director: Kevin Greutert
Starring:  Sarah Snook, Mark Webber, and Joelle Carter
Running Time: 90 min

  This should be an interesting film because it is from the writer of Reno 911 and Hellbaby, Robert Ben Garant and directed by Kevin Greutert, who was responsible for Saw VI and Saw 3D.  Garant looks like he is trying his hand at a more serious piece of horror this time around, so has he traded in the sounds of laughter for the curdling screams of terror for now.  I guess, we'll have to see.

  Jessabelle and her fiance have just finished packing up her things and they're ready to drive off into the sunset and start their lives together.  They have a baby on the way and they're finally going to move in together, what could go wrong?  Getting T-boned by a semi is what.  Yep, this perfect couple gets T-boned by a semi and Jessabelle not only loses her husband but the baby as well.  She spends some time at the hospital and then is asked to told to call some one to pick her ass up.  Sadly, she tells the doctors that her mother passed away from cancer many years ago and had lived with her aunt after her mother's death because her father couldn't handle her.  So, the hospital tells her to call her dad to pick her ass up.
  Her dad comes to pick her up and it's a long silent trip to his place.  When they get to the house, her dad pushes over a cabinet that was blocking the doors to her mom's old room on the main floor because Jess is now confined to a wheelchair and can't access the second floor.  Thanks dad!  She unpacks and that night starts having uncomfortable feelings and starts to see ghostly figures in her room.  The next day, she starts snooping through her mom's room and finds a box with a VHS tape in it that says "Happy Birthday 18th Jessabelle".  Luckily, her dad still has a working VHS player and puts the tape in to find that it's a video of her pregnant mom wishing her a happy birthday for the past. Spooky!  Not really, her mom tells her a little bit about herself and then does a tarot card reading for her.  Unfortunately, it's not a good one and ends up that Jess is going to die. Bummer.  But before she can find out any more, her dad storms in, ejects the tape and cracks that baby right across is knee, Chuck Norris style.  He tells Jess that he doesn't ever want to see her watching videos of her mom ever again and then he takes her out of her wheelchair, puts her on the chair and then takes her wheelchair and throws it into the lake.  Take that!
  The next morning, Jess finds a battered old wheelchair beside her bed and she rolls into the kitchen.  Her father tells her that he is sorry for being irrational/drunk angry and tells her that that wheelchair was her mothers.  He heads off to work and Jess puts in another tape of her mother in the VCR.  This time she is doing more Tarot card reading that she learned from her secret friend, Moses.  Still the same old crappy reading, she's gonna die, man is she ever bad at that.  That night, she has more nightmares about a creepy ghost trying to touch her under the sheets.
  The next day, a nurse finally comes over to help her with her rehabilitation and to give her a bath.  The nurse, who must be new at this, puts her in the watery tub fully clothed and then goes out to clean their house and put things away?  Jess closes her eyes and then is attacked by a demon girl, who tries to drown her.  Luckily, her dad got home just in time and is able to save her from the creature.  Sadly though, after sending the incompetent nurse home and putting Jess back to bed, he finds the other VHS tapes that most have multiplied like rabbits or gremlins in Jess's room.  He goes outside to burn them but a ghostly presents sets him on fire instead.
  The next day at the funeral, she meets up with an old high school flame, Preston who chats her up and she tells him about all the crazy shit that has been going on in her life.  The nightmares, the bad tarot card readings and the two of them decide to look into this further.  As they delve into her mother's past, they discover more VHS tapes, dammit, and a connection to a voodoo cult in their town, Voodoo Local 666.  Can Jess and Preston find out the truth about her past and finally move onto her future or is there something from the beyond that wants to steal her away forever?

  This wasn't too bad and I like that there was voodoo element in this.  This is definitely a much stronger horror story from writer Robert Ben Garant (Balls of Fury, Night at the Museum), whose forte is comedy and I think that this is director Kevin Greutert (Saw 3D, Saw VI) strongest work so far.
  There are some scares in this.  Greutert develops some excellent tension during the night scenes and does a nice job slowly reveals the creature that is stalking Jess.  When the demon girl is revealed, it's not disappointing and I dug the make up work and the overall look of her.
  Also, the ending of the film does have a good and somewhat original twist to it.  It is where the film needed to go and I enjoyed the subtly of that moment of the film. 

  There seemed to be a few weird things that popped up in the film that I didn't really get.  Like, her having a bath with her clothes on and the nurse leaving a patient alone in the bath or that the Preston character would just drop everything for Jessabelle, like his wife and he didn't seem to have a job.  These were some of the elements that just didn't ring true for me and took me out of the picture.
  Also, I also wished that they focused a bit more on the voodoo aspect of the film and the background of Jess's mother.  I think that would have made the ending pop a little bit more.  I think that were trying to hold the reveal at the end a little too close to their chests and it hurt the story.
  Also, for a film obsessed with watching VHS tapes, when Jess discovers a hidden one, she doesn't watch it, which doesn't make sense.  It was hidden, don't you think it could be important and you've already watched all the other tapes, why not that one.  It just doesn't make sense.

  This film isn't going to blow you away but you're not going to be terribly disappointed after watching it either.  It has some good scary moments, an underdeveloped but still interesting story with a decent twist at the end.  So, if you're looking for a spooky thriller from the bayou with a dash voodoo, then grab some Cajun popcorn and pull the covers up nice and tight.

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