Returning to her childhood home in Louisiana to recuperate from a horrific car accident, Jessabelle (Sarah Snook of Sleeping Beauty) comes face to face with a long-tormented spirit that has been seeking her return -- and has no intention of letting her escape.
Returning to her childhood home in Louisiana to recuperate from a horrific car accident, Jessabelle (Sarah Snook of Sleeping Beauty) comes face to face with a long-tormented spirit that has been seeking her return -- and has no intention of letting her escape. less
Occasionally high on atmosphere but with little else to offer, Kevin Greutert’s “Jessabelle” begins with a scene where our pregnant protagonist Jessie (Sarah Snook) is moving in with her boyfriend, but while on the way, a truck hits their car killing her boyfriend and her baby and disabling her from walking for a few months. If horror movie clichés are anything to go by, this incident should have left the woman shocked and traumatized, but Jessie displays almost no grief over the death of her loved ones. It’s genuinely unsettling when she almost happily, as if entirely emotionally unaffected by the accident, reunites with her estranged father and shifts to his old house because she has nowhere else to go. She must stay in the hitherto locked room which once belonged to her dead mother, whom Jessie has never met. She finds some VHS tapes shot by her mother, and her first virtual encounter with her mother is almost touching because of the very idea of it, although the film doesn’t do much with it except employing the idea in service of some very basic clichés. It surely is a profound theme to explore, of seeing one’s dead mother for the first time through prerecorded video tapes as the mother interacts with the daughter through cute little dialogues (she had brain tumour and she was going to die.) But soon, what initially seemed moving turns creepy, as the mother reads her yet-to-be-born daughter’s tarot cards during the recordings, predicting some things which indeed have happened to Jessie while predicting some others which have never happened to her. In the meanwhile, Jessie keeps getting visions and nightmares while alone in the house, and the fact that she is wheelchair bound is put to good use in the movie, with the character’s helplessness resulting in some effective scares. There’s also some fine use of atmosphere, with light and darkness and grimy mirrors resulting in images which further our intrigue. But one wishes that the film had done more with what it achieves in the opening portions. The movie nicely establishes an interesting premise but is never quite able to go somewhere with it. After a point the several twists and reveals in the story stop being unnerving and start coming across as bizarre. The themes of identity and the inherent mother-daughter connection, where horror permeates through generations, is an intriguing one to explore by way of horror, but “Jessabelle” is almost blithely unaware of its potential, rendering its material with nothing else but cheap shocks. And if you thought last week’s “Exodus” was racist, “Jessabelle” goes even a step further by casting black actors in only those parts that are supposed to be weird or creepy. I like how the initial portions are full of sadness and hinting to a connection that could be both scary and graceful. But the movie dodges all that intrigue its story contains, and is instead happy being just another generic horror fare with a few jump-scare moments and little else. It’s not a terrible movie at all, but it could and should have been so much more.