- RatedNC16 /GenreHorror, Thriller
Here is another one of those why-don’t-they-just-get-out-right-now horror flicks.
You just don’t understand why people keep insisting on staying in very empty haunted houses when you would be out of your HDB flat in half a scream if somebody very long dead pops up right next to your bed at night like a stalker from ‘Extreme Fear Factor’.
To be fair, the lead actress being spooked in ‘Jessabelle’ is Jessie (Australian Sarah Snook), who cannot really go anywhere in a jiffy since she is confined to a wheelchair after a traumatic car crash that killed her boyfriend.
To be fair also, ‘Jessabelle’ isn’t a bad or silly horror movie.
Snook is good at being spooked. She reminds you of the spunky sidekick in, say, ‘90210’, who isn’t always in the central frame, but will do a great job stepping up as lead should the prom queen fall dead.
There are sudden jumps and scares, effective unravelling suspense, and best of all, there is a proper story about why the spirit here – a furious female-ghost escapee from possibly ‘The Conjuring’ – does its highly-spirited thing, which includes attacking Jessie very violently in her bathtub.
Poor girl is probably safer in the shower stall in ‘Psycho’. And speaking of which, if you ever wanted to see Alfred Hitchcock’s wheelchair thriller ‘Rear Window’ turned into a chiller, try this.
When you’re stuck helplessly to a chair and there are strange sounds coming from upstairs where no one is supposed to be around, that staircase to the second floor really looks even more intimidating than Mount Everest.
For her recuperation after the awful accident, Jessie does so in her severely isolated family home plunked in the middle of nowhere in the bayous of Louisiana.
It is the kind of big, dark and old house full of musty American Vintage furniture you wouldn’t find anywhere in Ikea.
Living there is her secretive, kind-of-creepy dad who does not say many words except to warn her not to snoop around like a busybody after she finds eerie videotapes of her dead mum playing ominous tarot cards.
The departed mum has rather dire news for Jessie: The house has a sinister past, the resident spook is mighty angry, and she (Jessie) basically will not be able to leave it any old time.
If your dead mother tells you such things, you will probably not do that and try to escape. Or you may call the marines or at least beg the local sheriff who goes checking on the spooky incidents to please stay for dinner, supper, breakfast, brunch, ideally forever.
But nope, Jessie doesn’t do that, because people don’t do that kind of very sensible, logical thing in horror movies.
Jessie digs into her family history the way some people dig their gardens – it is full of buried worms.
She does get help from a childhood friend, Preston (Mark Webber from ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World’) who, despite being married, still has the hots for her and even takes her to his home for protection, much to the disgust of his own wife. (Note: The scowl from Preston’s disapproving wife is really very good.)
Americans in scare fare are either independently stubborn or spectacularly silly. They don’t freak out that easily until crunch time, and in their quest for truth and thirst for mystery, they like climbing their family tree like clueless monkeys.
It is not clear why the movie is called ‘Jessabelle’. It was initially titled ‘Ghosts’. Maybe someone wanted to latch on to ‘Annabelle’, the spook doll hit.
If you want a good ol’ chiller also set deep in Louisiana, try ‘The Skeleton Key’ (2005) starring Kate Hudson. It has moments so creepy, you wouldn’t step into a house or sleep on a bed that is more than five years old.
It is the reason why I always run out of homes, unlike Jessie in ‘Jessabelle’.
‘Jessabelle’ is now showing in cinemas