Jessabelle Blu-ray review
“We will cast a shadow over you that cannot be distinguished from Fate.”
That foreboding quotes opens JESSABELLE, and then we see Jessie Laurent (Sarah Snook, 2012’s NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN, which won her a Film Critics Circle of Australia Award for Best Actress) preparing to move in with her fiancé. En route, a tractor trailer hits the driver’s side, killing the fiancé and Jessie’s unborn baby. She contacts her widowed father (David Andrews, WORLD WAR Z), who gives her a room in his Louisiana home.
He has her stay in her mother’s old room, which has since been blocked off by hefty furniture. At night, she gets the feeling she’s not alone (in part because she hears humming coming from outside the window). The next day, she comes across a box of VHS tapes with her name on it. On one of them, her mother (pregnant with Jessie) shows off tarot cards, explaining that the Death card means “transition.” One of the next cards warns her that an unseen female wants her out of the house.
Since her father doesn’t want her watching the tapes, she enlists a former boyfriend (Mark Webber, 2012’s FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL…) to help her make sense of the contents by spewing out garbage he would have learned in Introduction to Psychology had he gone to college (“That girl you keep seeing, it’s you…And the guy that burnt in the fire, you’re having a nightmare about your accident.”).
While there is a mystery at the center of the story, those watching it will likely be less interested in putting it together than seeing which nightmarish moment comes next. And JESSEBELLE is host to plenty of such moments: Jessie chokes on her own blood; a sink starts dripping, yes, blood; a bathtub fills with, yes, blood; a demon/ghost spits, yes, blood; a man catches on fire…
Some of these images are effective and the screenplay (by Robert Ben Garant, an interesting choice considering his previous credits include the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM trilogy and 2007’s BALLS OF FURY) even works in a voodoo element that plays well with the Louisiana setting, but the movie has a tendency to resort to cheap scares, like when a ghost/demon suddenly screams in Jessie’s face or a mirror shatters unexpectedly. There are also a number of recycled spooks (how many times have we seen a long-haired ghost appear out of nowhere? how many times have horror directors used a child’s laughter to get a scare?).
Director Kevin Greutert, who helmed the sixth and seventh installments of the SAW franchise and edited the first five (as well as 2008’s creepy THE STRANGERS), presents a number of bloody moments that will surely have a certain crowd (the one seeing it based on the “INSIDIOUS” stamp on the poster) covering their eyes and jumping from their seats, but there just isn’t anything original in the story or the visuals to make it stand out in its subgenre.
A strong aspect of JESSABELLE is lead Snook, who presents herself as an actress capable of handling material that is below her talents.
Video: 1.78:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are strong and colors are accurate throughout.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The dialogue is clear and the sound effects add to the atmosphere of the movie.
Audio commentary with director Kevin Greutert, writer Robert Ben Garant and executive producer Jerry P. Jacobs: Greutert, Garant and Jacobs offer a decent commentary in which they discuss the production.
JESSABELLE: Deep in the Bayou (9:14): This featurette looks at the locations, the imagery and more.
Deleted Scenes (7:48): Collected here are seven scenes, which can only be viewed together.
Extended Ending (1:11)