Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sarah Snook, Joelle Carter, Mark Webber, David Andrews, Ana de la Reguera, Amber Stevens, Chris Ellis, Brian Hallisay, Larisa Oleynik
Written by: Robert Ben Garant
Directed by: Kevin Greutert
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of horror violence and terror
Running Time: 90
Date: 11/07/2014

Jessabelle (2014)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Boo Bayou

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Kevin Greutert was a film editor for years before he became a director with the gore films Saw VI (2009) and Saw 3D (2010). But you'd never know it. Whenever his new film Jessabelle comes to a scary part, it turns into a messy, shaky jumble, frequently blurring or obscuring whatever it is that's supposed to be scary. Perhaps this is because Greutert and screenwriter Robert Ben Garant never really establish the rules of the ghosts. For example: why do they bother appearing and attacking in solid form when they can also do things by telepathy?

Jessie (Sarah Snook) is about to start a new life with her boyfriend when a car accident changes everything. Now, in a wheelchair, she's forced to live with her estranged dad, in the house where her mother died. She finds some old videotapes recorded by her mother. On them are some strange tarot card readings; later, her father reacts very strongly to her having watched the tapes. Before long, Jessie begins seeing ghosts, and the visits grow more and more violent. An old flame, Preston (Mark Webber) turns up to help, but can they solve the mystery together before the ghost makes its final attack?

The movie does make atmospheric use of its southern bayou setting. And Greutert seems to care about his characters, and he gives them several human, non-scary moments that are effective, and it helps that Sarah Snook and Mark Webber are so sympathetic in their roles. Ultimately, however, even they fall apart under the strange illogic of the entire situation and a barrage of unanswered questions.

Lionsgate's 2015 Blu-ray release has no real drawbacks, in terms of picture and sound. There's a commentary track by director Kevin Greutert, writer Robert Ben Garant, and executive producer Jerry Jacobs, a few deleted scenes and outtakes, an "extended ending," and a studio-produced "making of" featurette.

Best Buy Co, Inc.