Movie Review - Jessabelle
Kevin Greutert's 2014 psychological horror film, Jessabelle, feels like it could have been directed by genre heavyweight, James Wan. Which makes perfect sense, as the two have been working together for years — he edited the first five films in the extremely popular Saw franchise, including the original directed by Wan, and he himself directed the last two of the series. That is not to say that Jessabelle is derivative in any way whatsoever, in fact it's quite the opposite. I found the film to be inventive and original, and that is due in large part to a well-crafted screenplay by the extremely talented writer, Robert Ben Garant. Yes, you heard that correctly, the same guy who helped create The State and Reno 911, shows us that his capabilities are not limited to any one genre with his chilling and claustrophobic script. Now available on VOD and iTunes, Jessabelle is definitely worth your time.
After losing her fiancé and unborn child in a serious car accident, Jessabelle Laurent is left confined to a wheelchair. Alone and with no where else to go, she is forced to ask the father that abandoned her as a child to take her in while she recovers. Shortly after Jessie arrives back at the home of her father, she finds a pre-recorded video message from her long deceased mother, and suddenly begins to feel a dark presence in the house. But when she enlists the help of an old friend from high school to investigate strange lights in the swamp across from her house, they discover an old grave... Jessabelle's grave.
The entire cast is phenomenal, with an astounding onscreen chemistry that really carries the movie, but none so much as the two stars of the film. Sarah Snook (Predestination) brings a sweet and sincere vulnerability to the role of Jessabelle, and a naivety that makes her instantly likable and sympathetic. And Mark Webber (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 13 Sins) is absolutely charming as Jessie's old high-school crush, Preston. His warm personality and natural inclination to take care of Jessabelle make him instantly endearing, and it isn't hard to see why Jessie is drawn to him. This is, in my opinion, Webber's finest work to date.
Writer Robert Ben Garant's thrilling script provides us with a ton of well-timed jump scares, slow-burning tension, and more twists and turns than a roller coaster. And director Kevin Greutert seamlessly weaves it all together into a truly unsettling film. In fact the film is nearly perfect, save for a bit of over indulgence in the final seconds. I didn't dislike the ending, I just think it was slightly less understated than the rest of the film, and therefore it stood out to me. Overall, Jessabelle is a must-see for horror fans who enjoyed The Conjuring and Insidious. Although it is a much different film, it's sensibilities are very similar. I highly recommend this film. Cheers.
- Leo Francis