'Jessabelle' - excellent atmospherics, remotely horrifying

IANS| Last Updated: Dec 12, 2014, 16:17 PM IST

Though intriguing and captivating, there is something lacking in this slow, undulating, supernatural mystery film - "Jessabelle".

It's the story of an unfortunate girl, Jessabelle, who is cursed to be the vehicle of transition of a spirit from the netherworld to this one.

Coming from Kevin Greutert, a director who specialises in the horror genre, as the editor of the five "Saw" films, this one is a pleasant surprise. The look and feel of "Jessabelle" has a charming finesse and it lacks the gore one witnessed in his previous directorial ventures "Saw VI" and "Saw 3D".

This tale revolves around a wheelchair-bound girl, Jessabelle (Sarah Snook), who is forced to return to her reclusive father's home in Louisiana. And during her stay there, she occupies her dead mother's room which was locked for years. Here, she connects with her dead mother who was a tarot card reader, through a set of abandoned VHS cassettes, which she accidentally finds. These were apparently left for her.

Jessabelle views these cassettes with the hope of bonding with her mother since there's a lot of mystery about who her beautiful mother really was. But the paranormal activities she experiences in the house increase and unsettle her very existence in the family.

Packed with a few potent scares that emerge from accidents, voodoo practices, paranoia and paranormal activities the script falters with a pile of cliched genre tropes, uninvolving romantic sub-plot and flat characterisation.

The lead character Jessabelle is one-dimensional. Throughout the film, she is a vulnerable girl, unsure, uncertain and helpless. And all the other characters are stock and stoic with no emotional graphs whatsoever. The only exceptions are the mother and Preston, her old high school friend who is now married but still has a soft corner for Jessabelle.

On the performance front, Sarah Snook with her charismatic look and down to earth appeal excels in the lead role. She is ably supported by Mark Webber who plays Preston, David Andrews who portrays Leon her angry father and Joelle Carter who plays her mother Kate.

For a horror film, the production quality of the film is good and visually with good steady camera work the film oozes atmosphere in each frame, capturing the sounds and silences of the moments.

What probably lacks in the film is the logic on which the premise evolves and its connect with the audience.

Overall, the film will evoke a mixed response as it does not qualify as one of the excellent horror films, but for some strange reason, the atmospheric feel makes this film stand apart.