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Jessabelle – 7

January 23, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Kevin Greutert

Cast – Sarah Snook, Mark Webber, Joelle Carter, David Andrews, Ana de la Reguera, Amber Stevens, Chris Ellis, Brian Hallisay, Vaughn Wilson, Larisa Oleynik

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I personally feel that we do not see enough horror films involving voodoo/hoodoo, and seeing that Jessabelle was such a flick I was stoked to give this a watch. While not exactly similar to The Skeleton Key, aside from its location and voodoo, I was hoping for a familiar feel set in the spooky swamps of the deep south. From Saw VI and VII director Kevin and the writer behind the silly Night at the Museum films, Jessabelle is a good film but not one that I personally enjoyed very much. The horror is there, and it is good at times, but in the end this is one of those “good” films that I will not watch again.

Returning to her childhood home in Louisiana to recuperate from a horrific car accident, Jessabelle comes face to face with a long-tormented spirit that has been seeking her return – and has no intention of letting her escape. – Lionsgate

Writer Robert Ben Garant kicks things into gear right away, throwing us face-first into a terrible tragedy that claims the life of someone close to Jessabelle. On top of this, she is severely injured and must remain bound to a wheelchair during her recovery. We see the first hint of superantural terror only 10 minutes into the film, and four minutes later she finds what I thought to be the most interesting element of the story: video tapes her mother recorded for her when she was a child. Jessabelle lost her mother at a very young age, and only now did she realize that her mother left her the tapes. Before this she had only seen pictures of her, never video, so she is quite elated to finally experience her mother’s voice and personality. The videos consist of her mother using tarot cards to predict Jessabelle’s future, and her future does not look bright. Elation turns to terror when her mother’s predictions ring disturbingly true about a supernatural presence in the home that wants Jessabelle out at all costs. Nobody believes her, and she is stuck to a wheelchair, so she is not going anywhere. The first really good horror hits at the 31 minute mark, and to me it was the scariest scene the story had to offer. At the time it makes little sense, but nonetheless it was highly effective. For the majority of the film we are left to wonder whether the horror Jessabelle is experiencing is internal/psychological or supernatural/malevolent, and I am glad to say that the scarier of the two is eventually revealed as the answer. There are constant developments and revelations regarding Jessabelle’s past, which is now haunting her present day life, and I credit them with keeping things interesting when the horror subsides. For such a simple film there sure is a lot going on, and I know that seems like a contradiction but it is something that is hard to explain and must be experienced yourself. At times I felt like the story was losing me. It dragged at times and the horror, while good, was too infrequent and its effect did not last long enough until the next scare hit the screen. On top of this, I found none of the characters likable. I don’t need likable characters. I am just fine with every character dying because I hated them all, but when a film drags or the content loses your interest an enjoyable character is a remedy to keep you engaged. Thankfully, while I have said before that I would not watch this again, I do feel like it offered a really unique premise to the “horror in the swamp” scene, so props to Garant for breaking away from lame Night At The Museum movies.

Director Kevin Greutert is a big reason behind why I am giving this film a positive rating despite some writing faults. A swamp setting provides awesome atmosphere for a horror film, and while this was filmed in North Carolina (set in Louisiana) the sets and locations were employed well. I loved the spooky old home Jessabelle was forced to reside in during her recuperation, and Greutert’s dark and gloomy cinematography made the simplest of scares more effective than they should have been. There are some scares, though, that will be remembered as some of the best I have seen in 2014. The first and last attack sequences are amazing. From the shaky-cam, to the extreme audio, to the utmost in live-action gore, these scares are incredible and make the film worth viewing at least once. Trust me, if you watch the film wearing over the ear headphones like I did you will jump in your seat. Guaranteed.

Overall, Jessabelle is a film that gets things right and wrong yet still delivers a solid experience in the end. The horror is there, and while the supreme scares are infrequent they are superbly executed and will leave a memorable impression. Like I said, this is worth at least one watch.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

Cowboys & Aliens – 7

August 6, 2011 1 comment

Director – Jon Favreau

Cast – Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Noah Ringer, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Clancy Brown, Ana de la Reguera, Keith Carradine, Buck Taylor, Matthew Taylor, Cooper Taylor, Chris Browning, Brian Duffy, Julio Cedillo, Abigail Spencer

Release Year – 2011

Reviewed by John of the Dead

When I first saw the trailer for this flick i thought it had some potential as a horror film, although the level of horror was iffy to me so going into this piece I had a full understanding that it may not be a horror effort at all.  The storyline, based on the popular graphic novel series, is one that definitely could possess a good horror/sci-fi element, and thankfully enough this adaptation included enough elements of horror to warrant a review, and with pretty good results too.  The story has its flaws and Favreau’s direction came off choppy at times, but in the end Cowboys & Aliens is a no-brainer Hollywood effort that came with a fair amount of cheese as well, playing into the title that should give away the notion that you should not take this piece too seriously.

In 1837 Arizona, the Wild West is in full swing, but things are about to change drastically when an alien invasion leaves a small desert town in shambles after an attack.  Lead by defiant outlaw Jake Lonergan(Daniel Craig; The Invasion) and big-league cattle rancher Woodrow Dolarhyde(Harrison Ford; What Lies Beneath), a group of rag-tag cowboys launch a vengeance filled quest to retrieve their loved ones taken by the aliens, and hopefully redefining how the West was won.

Leave it to a graphic novel to give us a storyline blending two elements that nearly everyone in society is familiar with, cowboys and aliens.  Did i ever think they would be mashed together? No i did not, so i admit I was pretty stoked going into this film for that very reason.  The storyline, given to us by a slew of five writers, gave me most of what I wanted to see, which was plenty of cowboy vs. alien action and I guess little bits of drama here and there, but I mostly cared for the action because c’mon, what would you expect with a film blending cowboys and aliens?  Things take off fairly quickly, throwing us into the lawless land that was the Wild West, and wastes little time in developing the story and characters first by keeping us out of the loop regarding the mystery behind Jake Lonergan and the alien invasion.  Lonergan was the typical badass cowboy, and in fact each of the characters thrown in were mostly of typical fashion, which I did not mind because for once it was nice to see Hollywood give us the cheesy qualities that we normally see in lower-budget efforts.  The story is pretty simple overall, basically coming off exactly as I mentioned in the plot summary above, however the story moves very well by keeping our main characters on the move as they search for the aliens and their hopefully-captive (and not devoured) loved ones, coming across numerous alien-induced obstacles.  To make things even sweeter, we were given a fair Native American presence that just aided the ass-kicking seen on screen when they agreed to join forces with the cowboys, a group they were still at war with, in order to save mankind from absolute destruction.  There were plenty of action and kill sequences written into this piece, so I found it pretty impossible to find myself bored or wandering mentally throughout this near two hour experience.  However, the story does come with numerous faults, mainly in the form of the usual cheesy cliches that we get in Hollywood efforts, but they were not enough to keep this from achieving a positive rating, just a rating higher than it received.  I personally did not like the usage of Olivia Wilde(Turistas)’s character, Ella Swensen, who was the typical female protagonist and love interest that spoke little and just looked pretty in every shot, making for one of the numerous characters that could have been used to much higher potential.  She was not a worthless character because she did add to the story at times (although sparingly), but had this and the other character issues been resolved the story would have been more enjoyable.  Our main characters aside from her, Jake Lonergan, Woodrow Dolarhyde, Emmett Taggart(Noah Ringer; lol The Last Airbender lol) and Doc(Sam Rockwell; Moon) were great and provided much to the storyline, so the usage of characters was mostly-positive in the end.  Some other elements would have been better written, such as the conflict and resolve between the cowboys and indians before they joined forces, but when you have as many writers as this film did you are bound to have a bunch of errors, and that was the case with this story.

Director John Favreau(Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Elf) did a positive job delivering this effort, giving us great sets and awesome visuals that came with lots of CGI, but fairly good CGI that gave us cool action and did not deliver crappy creatures. The look of the creatures was great, and their mannerisms were positive as they delivered numerous brutal kill sequences. I was honestly very surprised at how many kills we were given in this piece, mostly because I expected this to be a typical hollywood PG-13 effort that relied on gimmicks instead of carnage, but thankfully that was not the case. Most of our actors delivered good performances, with Daniel Craig stealing the show, and while each of them brought a certain “cheese” to their characters the cheese was enjoyable and expected for the type of film this was set to be. I mentioned earlier that at times Favreau’s direction felt choppy, and while it may play in part to crappy editing, this was far from the greatness that was expected from him, but it is definitely better than Elf.

Overall, Cowboys & Aliens is a positive Hollywood effort that gives us a cool storyline that despite some faults still manages to deliver a brainless horror-esque experience. Favreau does a good job with the films visuals, and the slew of fine actors in this piece add to the visual expertise displayed before the viewer. Of course, to make matters even better we are given a large amount of kill sequences and plenty of cowboys and native americans kicking alien ass, making this effort a recommended watch.

Rating: 7/10

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