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Jessabelle

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    Ian Jane
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  • Jessabelle



    Released by: Lionsgate Films
    Released on: January 13th, 2015.
    Director: Kevin Greutert
    Cast: Sarah Snook, David Andrews, Mark Webber
    Year: 2014
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Here are some qualities that, for this writer at least, tend to make a horror movie worth watching:

    -atmosphere
    -a great location
    -spooky ghosts
    -buxom redheads

    Kevin Greutert's Jessabelle has all of these qualities. It also benefits from really nice production values highlighted by a reasonably evocative score and some occasionally very impressive camera work. Yep, all signs pointed to this being an enjoyable and well put together ghost story - but as the old adage goes, you can't judge a book by its cover.

    Jessie Lauren (Sarah Snook) is great with child and enjoying a day out with her fiancé when their car is slammed into. He dies, she wakes up in a hospital bed. She'll walk again, but not for a few months and a whole lot of therapy. They can't release her on her own so she's shipped off to live with her estranged father, Leon (David Andrews), a grumpy old drunk who lives alone in a creepy old house near a swamp. He puts her up in her late mother's room. Mom's been dead for a while, Jessie never really knew her. That's changes when she comes across a pile of old VHS tapes. She pops them into the VCR and low and behold, there's her mom Kate (Joelle Clark) talking into the camera, the baby still resting safely inside her womb. It seems mom is into Tarot cards.

    At any rate, when her dad catches her doing this he chucks her wheelchair off the dock into the lack. Later he feels guilty and gives Jessie her mom's old wheelchair. Jessie says she'll not watch anymore of these tapes but once dad takes off (possibly to work? He gets in a truck and disappears). Around this time, Jessabelle learns of an 'unwanted presence' in the house, thanks to mom's pre-recorded ramblings. When an old flame named Preston (Mark Webber) shows up to help her, ghostly happenings become a regular occurrence. When they find the grave of a baby on the outskirts of the property, things go from bad to worse - is Jessabelle being haunted or is there a completely predictable twist coming out way?

    So much of this movie's success hinges on Jessie's character that it's amazing how poorly formed her character really is. Even early on, after the car accident, she doesn't grieve - there's nothing to help us feel for her or really connect with her after she loses her man. It just happens, and boom, she's off to dad's ramshackle abode for spooky jump scares and dusty interiors aplenty. It's a shame, really. Sarah Snook does okay with the material here and she has the right look to make this character work, but when there's no depth in the script it's hard for an actor or actress to compensate for that. David Andrews as the dad plays his character just fine but his character is one we've seen a hundred times before, there's nothing new here. Throw in Mark Webber as the old flame who is on the outs with his wife and you just know that the old spark he once shared with Jessie is going to burn bright once more - no surprise there. In fact, really, there are no surprises anywhere.

    We've seen all this before. The setting is great, the voodoo elements do occasionally get a little eerie and are pretty interesting but nothing all that impressive is done with any of this. We get a few stingers to enhance the jump scares and we get ideas better exploited in The Ring but none of this makes any sort of lasting impression at all. This is one of the most instantly forgettable films to pass through this reviewer's Blu-ray player in ages.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The transfer on this AVC encoded 1080p high definition release frames the movie at 1.78.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. As you'd expect, there's no dirt or debris here and detail is generally outstanding. Colors are nicely reproduced though some post production tweaking gives things an intentionally grim, almost mute look most of the time. Black levels are strong throughout and contrast is solid. No complaints here, this is an excellent looking transfer from Lionsgate of a fairly dark looking movie (given that long stretches of it take place in the run down old house). The image is free of compression artifacts, edge enhancement and any obvious filtering or ringing - top marks for the picture quality on this release.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is also very strong. There are moments of intense surround activity throughout, particularly during the scenes in which the ghost manifests. There are stretches here without any action that are instead more dialogue and mood based - pay attention during this more restrained moments and you'll pick up on some subtle but effective use of the surrounds - but a lot of the movie, particularly the last half, benefits from a lot of great depth and directionality. Subtitles are offered in English SDH and Spanish and an optional Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix is also included.

    The main extra is a commentary track with director Kevin Greutert, writer Robert Ben Garant, and executive producer Jerry Jacobs. It's a pretty chatty talk with the three guys are quite enthusiastic about the finished product that they're watching. Sadly that doesn't translate so well to those of us outside the room where the talk is taking place. Regardless, they cover all of their bases here - casting, the performances, the script and where some of the ideas came from, some of the effects work and the locations used for the film.

    Rounding out the extras are a nine minute featurette called Jessabelle: Deep in the Bayou (essentially a promo spot made up of cast and crew interviews), eight minutes of inconsequential deleted scenes, two and a half minutes of outtakes and a one minute extended ending. Menus and chapter selection are also included and the disc comes with a download code for a digital copy as well as a slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Jessabelle has some okay ideas at play but fails to really exploit them. Where creativity and brooding atmosphere should reign supreme, we're left with predictability and one cliché after another. The movie looks and sounds good though, and the Blu-ray release is of very strong quality. It's just too bad that the movie doesn't deliver.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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