Saw series. Here, gore effects and torture porn nastiness are banished and replaced by the slow-burn demands of southern gothic. However, a story exploring the Deep South's racially-charged past (and present) is hindered by daft jump scares. In fact, the horror in Jessabelle is not at all supernatural.
It is instead provoked by the evil of racism, fears of miscegenation, sexual rivalry and the infantile assumption that parental figures, once assigned the roles of 'Mommy' and 'Daddy', shed their old lives and personalities to become one-dimensional beings. The discovery that our parents aren't all they're cracked up to be can wreak psychological havoc. Greutert makes the most out of his heroine's restricted movement in a standard-issue creaky old house that backs on to the bayou, where willow trees are adorned with voodoo sacraments and the murky water may hold a secret or two. Snook is very good as the lass uncovering her family's troubled past. Lying in bed at night and seeing things moving around in the dark, Jessebelle's instinct is to revert to the safe harbour of childhood and hide under the covers, hoping the ghost is but a figment of an overactive imagination or trick of the moonlight. A routine sequence often found in plenty of ghost stories, taps directly into the film's key musing: there might well be no place like home, but is it a given that we belong there?
Martyn Conterio | @Cinemartyn