Thursday, November 13, 2014
Jessabelle (2014) : Back To The Bayou For Some Voodoo
So when Jessabelle was making the trailer rounds, I was intrigued and perhaps even excited to check it out. I never get my hopes up in watching a new horror film - though I still can't get enough of them - that way if it turns out to be good I am pleasantly surprised. There haven't been a lot of surprises lately. Hmpf! Jessabelle doesn't do a whole lot to make the movie feel fresh at all, and in using the same old rhetoric and plot devices it fails to evoke any serious scares and falls well short of the aforementioned films. That said, there was enough going on within the hour and a half running time to keep my interest and semi-enjoy it.
Her mother died of a long illness when Jessie was a baby and even though she hasn't set eyes on her father Leon (David Andrews) in years it is him that she is forced to call to pick her up at the hospital upon discharge. Leon takes her back to his house deep in the Bayou and sets her up in her mother's old room - which has been strangely blocked off with a large cabinet for a seemingly long time.
Apologetic in the morning, her father presents her with her mom's old wheelchair and warns her that the tapes are not good for her to watch and that her mother had crazy ideas. After he leaves for work Jessie is alone in the house and starts to experience some strange, even paranormal events. When a therapist comes and helps her into the tub for a bath, Jessie falls asleep but is awakened and pulled under water by a malicious female spirit, who then seems to be screaming at her in every reel from then on.
She finds another hidden videotape and scares herself silly when she realizes her mother was either correct about someone being in the house - or she actually was crazy. Maybe a little of both. Her father is furious to find her watching another tape and he takes them outside to burn them. Things go awry and somehow he ends up in his work-shed with a raging fire all around him. At his funeral (its' really not giving anything away to mention his death), Jessie reconnects with an old high school boyfriend, Preston (Mark Webber). She starts to tell him about the strange events and they begin doing some research into the past. It's obvious Preston still has a thing for Jessie, but just when you think they are going to quickly couple up we are introduced to his wife.
Preston continues to help her despite the scowls and torments of his wife, and their search leads them to a grave on the other side of the bayou on the property. When they uncover the name, and it says Jessabelle - with Jessie's exact birth date, it's clear that malevolent forces are at work here.
I wanted to love Jessabelle. I really did. But now I know I am destined to only just tolerate this recent venture into voodoo. All things told, it really incorporated too many different ideas in one film - I had way too many unanswered questions. Was Jessie's mother a voodoo priestess? A witch? Do voodoo practitioners use Tarot cards? Why were there evil spirits? Was the house itself haunted? Or was the apparition supposed to be a demon? Was someone possessed by the devil or was it a voodoo possession - which is allegedly a good thing in voodoo? Did I not pay close enough attention and miss something profoundly important?
Sarah Snook, for being an Aussie, does a pretty good job of spinning that cajun accent, and does emulate well a frightened young woman with all kinds of questions and nothing to lose. But there just wasn't enough actual voodoo. I was looking for loads more secret rituals, inexplicable transformations - maybe even a few zombies for pete's sake!
But instead all I was left with was hopes and dreams for the next voodoo film that comes along.