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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…

13 Sins – 6


Director – Daniel Stamm

Cast – Mark Webber, Devon Graye, Tom Bower, Rutina Wesley, Ron Perlman, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Clyde Jones, Deneen Tyler

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

There are two reasons why I had been waiting anxiously to give this flick a watch. First, it is the American remake of 13: Game of Death, which remains one of the better Asian horror films of last decade. Second, it has one of my favorite actors and one who is no stranger to the genre…Ron Perlman. What I hoped to get from 13 Sins was the same intensity felt in the original, and to an extent that same intensity was there for me to enjoy. While it does a decent job of proving good thrills, the story pales in comparison to its longer original and the missing details make this an under-whelming and slightly stupid film.

Life is not easy for Elliot. He is the sole caretaker of his mentally disabled brother and the medical bills that come with him. He is in the same situation with his elderly and racist father who shows no love for him nor his sweet, beautiful African American fiancé, Lily. Now to top it off, he has just lost his job, which means he lost the insurance that greatly aided him in paying for his brother’s treatment. With his life dwindling down the drain and his wedding date soon approaching, an anonymous phone call promises to change his life for the better. All he has to do is complete 13 tasks and he will leave the game a millionaire, but there is always a catch, and each of the 13 tasks will be more sinister than the last.

The adapted screenplay comes penned by director Daniel Stamm and Dahmer / Gacy writer David Birke, and they only take about 13 minutes getting to the goods. The story kicks off with a full view of the overbearing problems plaguing Elliot’s life, and soon enough he gets the phone call that changes everything. The person he is speaking to is never identified nor are we shown just how he knows so much about Elliot, including what he is currently doing. Simply put, it feels like this guy is the person behind the spying in Eagle Eye. Left without much of a choice, Elliot takes on what seems like an easy game, and at first the tasks are simple and quite harmless. Eventually the tasks begin to take on a more sinister route, like making a child cry, and from then on out Elliot must commit crimes that will land him decades in prison. There is a failsafe though, and if he completes all 13 tasks he will not serve a day in prison nor face any charges. These tasks make the film high in tension and include some gut-wrenching scenes that are sure to grab your undivided attention. While this seems like a really good thing, and it is to an extent, these tasks don’t push boundaries as much as I expected them too. Now, there is at least one damn good kill scene that will rival the opening sequence to Ghost Ship, but aside from that the horror did not flourish to the level it could have reached. Throw in the film’s numerous plot holes and lack of attention to important details and you get a story that has much potential but instead winds up mediocre at best, and that is a real shame. On top of this shame, Ron Perlman’s character, Det. Chilcoat, was a near waste who was never used to full potential and seemed to merely serve as a way to get an “big name” on the credits.

I was expecting at last mostly positive direction from Daniel Stamm and I can say that he did well for his follow up film to The Last Exorcism. His execution of the tension was pretty good and he shows his ability to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. There are a few scenes that involve kills and his direction was especially good during the Ghost Ship-esque sequence mentioned earlier, with decent gore albeit some of it coming from CGI. The acting performances are important in a high stress film like this and I enjoyed what Mark Webber had to offer as Elliot. Birke’s screenplay relied heavily on this character and it forced him to go through a wide array of emotions that Webber portrayed very well. It is always a joy for me to see Ron Perlman, and while his acting performance was swell I just wish his character had been used differently.

Overall, 13 Sins gets a lot of the important things right as far as the horror goes but as a film I would chalk this down as a mediocre experience due to its numerous story-related faults.

Rating: 6/10

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