What I'm Watching: Jessabelle
This post gets me all caught up for stuff I've watched lately, and if the universe smiles down upon me this week, I can maybe even get through some more of the backlog. I'm getting into a groove here, and wanna keep at it!
ANYways, this time out, I wanna talk about Jessabelle. This flick is about a young woman, in a happy relationship, so you KNOW things are gonna go wrong quickly, and the movie wastes zero time with having a car accident kill her boyfriend and send Jess into a wheelchair.
With no one else, Jess heads back home to her father, and it's not long before she uncovers videotapes left behind by her dead mother to be delivered to Jess upon certain birthdays.. These messages from beyond the grave never reached her though, and Jess is very interested in learning about her mother whom she never knew.
Unfortunately, the tarot readings are rather dark, and end up awakening a spirit that does not like Jess being around.
Jess is then driven to uncover the mystery of this spirit, which leads to a deeper mystery of her mother's death, her family history, and of herself.
If you've seen any haunting movies, with a touch of voodoo, you can probably make some VERY educated guesses as to what's going on, and where things are going. There is still plenty of twists and turns, that you will probably still be plenty surprised and pleased by the full reveal.
The plotline dances along the line of having a lot of twists, and too many twists. Once I got to the end, I had to kinda stop and think, "Okay, wait, this then this then this..okay, I think I know what happened here..." It comes SO SO close to tipping over that line of piling on too many surprises and turns in the story, but just manages to pull it off in the end, thanks to everything actually making sense and lining up. I think the reason the twists work is because they don't dump ALL of them on you at once, and spread them out just enough to peel back the true story, and give the audience time to let that sink in before the next twist.
The movie plays with some VERY effective imagery, has some really great scares and creepy moments, even if a lot of them are derivative of other sources. I more than once went, "Hey, I remember that from..." but the movie does them well. I got no problem with classic tropes as long as they're done well.
Much like Honeymoon, this has a small cast, albeit with more characters to deal with. They're dealing more with a mystery here, and that involves asking people questions. So you get some of that intimate, scary, closeness, but at the same time, the story feels more satisfying.
Jess spends almost the entire movie confined to a wheelchair, and that added a whole new level of fear I was not expecting to find. The sheer terror of being unable to walk, when there's some unseen force in your house, coming after you is just...gyah. Also, in a two storey house, when you here things running around upstairs, and can't do *anything* about it, can't even go see if it's just a cat, or whatever? Very well done.
I want to talk about the ending, and I want to reference another movie, but I also don't want to blow the payoff, so anyone who has any interest in seeing this movie should check out now. I'll wait...
So, the ending lands on a pretty dark note. And I am a sucker for dark endings. Hollywood loves its happy endings, and they certainly have their place, don't get me wrong, but having a healthy amount of movies where things go wrong is a good thing to have.
It SO reminded me of the Skeleton Key, another movie involving voodoo and Louisiana folklore. And again, if you know that movie, you can see where some of the plot here goes. Maybe not the specifics, but the general township, surely.
And yet, while the movie ends darkly, it also ends with a soul that was wrongly cut down as a baby returned to life, but at the expense of our lead character. But it's also the story of both of these women, so there's a weird sense of a...happy? ending. It is this very weird conclusion where the real Jessabelle was killed as a child, replaced by an adopted child, and that's whom we spend the movie with. This movie leaves you not sure HOW to feel. It's bad that *our* Jess is now gone, her soul taken, but this wronged child has been brought back at her expense and...yeah.
It's confusing, and brings so many conflicting emotions. It's so easy to just brush it off as ugh, another downer ending, the bad guys win, and yet, if you actually get into the story, enjoy the ride, and sit there and think about the movie...the bad guys DON'T win, they get their comeuppance, and somehow someone wins? It all depends on whose side you're on at the end, and there is arguments for multiple sides.
That's almost the best example of everyone being the hero of their own story, I've ever seen. And that is probably thinking TOO deeply about it, but I don't think I've seen a movie quite so effectively, if ever, pulled off an ending quite like that.
The movie has some great performances, especially Sarah Snook as Jess, who does that perfect mix of determined innocence that works so well for horror movie heroines. She's one to watch for in the future, that's for sure. If you don't buy into her terror and need to find out the truth, you're not gonna care about the movie.
Still, there's some flaws, and the downer ending can turn people off. Also, being TOO twisty in the end can also be a problem. But mostly it was an enjoyable movie that used some common tropes and some new tweaks to make an effective story that may not be the most original movie, but very enjoyable and worth the watch.