I’m a fan of Horror films. I’ve always believed that horror provides such a wide range of different styles, sub genres, politics and a great amount of fun. It’s also a genre though that gets the most diversity in quality. Horror films can be done for cheap and almost always make money because there is always a rapid and loyal fan base that’s willing to go and see them ( just as UCLA film teacher Howard Suber put it). So, if something can be done for cheap and have a good chance of making money for the studio obviously there is going to be a lot of them released every year and this has been happening for a long time in Hollywood.
This year our wide release horror films (with the majority only costing below 7 million to make) have not been that strong. The only great one thus far, was “Oculus” while the others have been fairly mediocre. “Jessabelle” has been moving release dates throughout the year, from January to August to now November. It’s never a good telling sign but I held out hope that it could be a “sleeper hit.” Sadly though “Jessabelle” joins the increasingly long list of poor horror films for 2014. “Jessabelle” is not just mediocre, it’s quite bad. This film combines all of the most predictable troupes of horror films while also having a strong lack of atmosphere, scares and decently written characters.
After a horrible car accident, Jessabelle returns to her country side hometown in Louisiana. Awaiting there is a long tormented spirit that will not rest till Jessabelle is dead and will stop her from escaping at all costs.
Let’s go back to moviemaking 101. The first thing you must have to give you the best chance of success for your movie is to have a solid script. The script is the foundation for the rest of the brick to be laid on. “Jessabelle” did not have that. The film starts off and it feels like you missed like the first 10 minutes of the movie. There is no establishment of characters nor do the screenwriters seem to bother to do any later on. We open up to two characters talking about moving in and having a happy life as they get in the car and then quickly a car accident changes that. How are we suppose to feel for our main character about this horrific event when we just met her? Instead it all feels abrupt and rushed. As the film continues on, weaving in random new characters without giving them proper introduction, we still never become attached to our main leads which makes me feel uninterested in what’s going to happen to her (when that begins to happen I start to root for the clock.) Even in a series like “Friday the 13th” , a horror franchise not well known for its writing, had better time at establishing characters then this did.
However not every film needs a strong story to succeed. Many movies can lean on the strengths of the aesthetics rather than a strong sense of narrative. As long as a horror movie can scare you then it’s done its primary job. Yet sadly once again “Jessabelle disappoints. “Jessabelle” relies heavily on jump scares to get jolts out of the audience rather than establishing any sort of atmosphere. A movie can have jump scares if done correctly. For instance, “Sinister” and “Insidious” have many jump scares but they are well placed and built off of the atmosphere that was already built up. “Jessabelle” doesn’t have that luxury. When a scene does start to become unsettling, former “Saw VI and VII” director Kevin Greutert can’t find a proper way to follow through on it. He did however try to blend many different elements together. There was some Japanese influence (especially from “The Grudge”), then with some southern voodoo culture interwoven. There were interesting things Greutert was going for but he never follows through.
I always try to be fair to every movie I review. Point out what I liked as well as what I hated and vice versa (never do I just want to outright trash a film internet troll style). Yet there is very little to like here ( and I didn’t even mention it’s below par discount price acting). “Jessabelle” is an hour and half long date with a girl that your friends told you not to go out with and simply shouldn’t ever go out with again.