A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jessabelle is a horror film about ghosts. Though it comes from one of the filmmakers behind the ultra-gory Saw franchise, this one isn't nearly as gory. But although blood is minimal, there's fighting and struggling, scary ghost stuff, a gruesome nightmare sequence, a character burned alive, and some general meanness -- as well as a life-changing car crash. Language includes several uses of "s--t," plus a few uses of "goddamn" and "ass." A flask is shown, and the main character drinks whisky in one scene. In one scene, she wears a wet tank top after coming out of the bathtub, but there's no nudity. Teen horror hounds will no doubt be clamoring to see it.
What's the story?
Jessie (Sarah Snook) is about to start a new life with her boyfriend when a car accident changes everything. Now in a wheelchair, she's forced to live with her estranged dad in the house where her mother died. She finds some old videotapes recorded by her mother; on them are some strange tarot card readings; later, her father reacts very strongly to her having watched the tapes. Before long, Jessie begins seeing ghosts, and the visits grow more and more violent. An old flame, Preston (Mark Webber), turns up to help, but can they solve the mystery before the ghost makes its final attack?
Is it any good?
Whenever JESSABELLE comes to a scary part, it turns into a messy, shaky jumble, frequently blurring or obscuring whatever it is that's supposed to be scary. Director Kevin Greutert was a film editor for years before he became a director with the "torture porn" films Saw VI (2009) and Saw 3D (2010), but you'd never know it. Perhaps Greutert and screenwriter Robert Ben Garant never really established the rules of the ghosts. Why do they bother appearing and attacking in solid form when they can also do things by telepathy?
The movie does make atmospheric use of its southern bayou setting. And Greutert seems to care about his characters; he gives them several human, non-scary moments that are effective, and it helps that Snook and Webber are so sympathetic in their roles. But ultimately even they fall apart under the strange illogic of the entire situation and a barrage of unanswered questions.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: November 7, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: January 13, 2015
- Cast: Sarah Snook, Mark Webber, Joelle Carter
- Director: Kevin Greutert
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of horror violence and terror
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.