Jessabelle DVD Review
Directed by Kevin Greutert
Written by Robert Ben Garant
2014, Region 2 (PAL), 90 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 2nd February 2015
Sarah Snook as Jessie
Joelle Carter as Kate
Mark Webber as Preston
David Andrews as Leon
Ana de la Reguera as Rosaura
Amber Stevens as Dead Girl
After losing her fiancé, unborn child and all feeling in her legs in a tragic car accident, unfortunate Jessie returns to her childhood home in Louisiana, hoping to rest, recuperate and reconnect with her past. No time for any of that mourning lark though – Jess's child and fiancé barely rate a mention, even as she flirts with an old flame and investigates a series of video message left by her late mother. There's more afoot than simple small town life though; mum's messages getting more and more frantic, while dad reacts with surprising aggression towards her snooping. No, I thought it was going to be about a haunted doll too.
With nothing to do with spooky dolls, what we have here is a haunted house horror mystery in the same vein as Sinister or Skeleton Key, Kevin Greutert's Jessabelle is a familiar story, reasonably well told. Sarah Snook makes a sympathetic protagonist, even when the story is at its most clichéd and predictable. Not trusting said story to hold the audience's interest on its own, Greutert courts the sleazy teenage viewer with constant, gratuitous cleavage shots and a general fascination with Snook's boobs that it rarely departs from.
Jessabelle is the sort of film I have real difficulty writing about. It's easy to drum up a few hundred words or so on a movie I loved or hated, but when I get something so middle-of-the-road as Jessabelle plonked before me, I find myself stumped. There are only so many ways one can say 'it's alright, I guess' without making it sound better or worse than it is, just for the sake of having something to say. Should the filmmakers be commended for it? While it's not good, it's certainly not bad either, which means that Greutert and his writers and producers succeeded entirely at hitting their target, spray painted with keen accuracy in the dead centre of the road. It's horror for people who don't like horror but think they do - the sort who look up to Insidious, Sinister and The Conjuring (which, admittedly I did enjoy) as the classics of the genre, and visit the cinema once a year, to see the latest Paranormal Activity sequel. That's a pretty hipster thing to say, but Jessabelle is a movie desperate for the attention of its fifteen year old audience. Hence the boobs.
The pleasant setting and inoffensive mystery keep the story trundling along at a leisurely pace, punctuated occasionally with the odd jump scare or glimpse of its J-horror inspired ghost. The use of old VHS tapes and tarot are uninspired but useful, while Jess's immobility adds something to the story that we don't see too often elsewhere. It's just a shame that it never really pays off, bringing surprisingly little in terms of tension or scares. Even Curse of Chucky managed that, and Chucky is not a scary villain (sorry, people with a phobia of dolls).
Jessabelle is a perfectly acceptable bit of spook horror, set to a steamy Louisiana backdrop. It hits the targets it sets itself with precision, never once crossing the line into brilliance or ineptitude. It's a fine way to kill an hour and a half, provided you don't feel the need to remember everything you watch, mere days after seeing it. For better or worse, it's alright, I guess.
Video and Audio:
Its hot and steamy visuals are the best reason to watch, giving it a True Blood vibe that the film itself completely fails to live up to. Although it does have enough cleavage to make even HBO proud. It sounds fine; appropriately creepy and creaky in just the right places.
Greutert and the film's producers provide the film's audio commentary, while deleted scenes, outtakes and an extended ending pad out the special features. None of them are worth seeing. Deep in the Bayou is a decent making of documentary, but won't cause anyone to look at the film in a new light. Like the movie, it's pleasant and pretty, but slightly dull nevertheless.