Ginger Nuts of Horror
I'm a sucker for these kind of 'deep south' American films. The music, the landscape, the accents...absolutely does it for me.
Dir: Kevin Greutert
Jessabelle concerns the young woman of the title, who, following a tragic accident that kills her fiancé, returns to stay with her taciturn father while she regains the use of her legs. Temporarily confined to using a wheelchair, it's not long before the spectres of the past (both real and possibly imagined) come a-haunting...
Direct to DVD, low budget, ghostly shenanigans (sorry Jim) and a director whose previous film was Saw 3D doesn't sound promising, but what we have here actually turns out to be a pretty effective chiller that belies its modest pedigree. Sure, it has the look of a TV movie, but the direction is actually very assured and slick, a world away from the over the top, gory histrionic nonsense of the final Saw film (a film I can't even bring myself to watch all the way through...). The effects are used sparingly and look very professional and polished, comparable to a much bigger film.
Right from the get-go, we know we're on uncertain ground, the best kind for a creepy horror film. A vanilla domestic scene quickly gives way to the first surprise shock as we witness the accident that kills the main character's fiancé. It's a jolt, that's for sure and it causes you to re-evaluate the film a some which isn't going to mollycoddle with its frights. From there, we follow Jessabelle (played very well by Sarah Snook) as she returns to her childhood Louisiana home to be cared for by a father who gives all the appearance of not giving a shit about himself, his daughter or their situation. It's an interesting dynamic and feels authentic, not forced at all. Of course, the inevitable creepy inexplicable things begin to happen, but despite being derivative to this type of horror, I found them very effective - in fact, there's a wonderful set-piece where Jessabelle is watching an old VHS of her deceased mother, who is giving her a tarot card reading 'from beyond the grave'. It is done so effectively and completely on atmosphere, that it gave me skin crawl the entire length of my body.
Even though I felt the reactions of the characters to be a bit false at times (considering the number of bereavements and weird events, they seem to take it in their stride most of the time), I was able to put this to one side. Sure, it's not up there with the best of them, but at least it tries to tell an actual story and isn't just about tying a few scary scenes together. I liked how the details were teased out through dialogue and amateur investigation, rather than mounds of exposition. It forces you to pay attention and, in doing so, you get that much closer to the film and, inevitably, the horror.
It's got a great atmosphere and I admit, I'm a sucker for these kind of 'deep south' American films. The music, the landscape, the accents...absolutely does it for me.
So, whilst not the most original or frightening of films, it's still very effective and at least feels logical (for the most part) within itself. You could do worse. A lot worse.