Reviewed by: Gabriel Mohler
spirits in the Bible
tarot reading, tarot cards
What is the Occult? Answer
|Featuring:||Sarah Snook … Jessie
Mark Webber … Preston
Joelle Carter … Kate
David Andrews … Leon
Amber Stevens … Dead Girl
Ana de la Reguera … Rosaura
Larisa Oleynik … Samantha
Chris Ellis … Sheriff Pruitt
Brian Hallisay … Mark
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“Jessabelle” is a horror movie that has plenty of thrills, an intriguing plot, and not much gore. The elements of the plot are rather mature and may be disturbing to some, but as a general rule, the prominent evil is not portrayed as good (although the moral quality is far from perfect, as I will get to in a minute). Reviewer Douglas Downs said in one of his reviews, “No, I personally don’t believe in ghosts. But I do like a good ghost story. … If you can separate the Biblical truth concerning eternity and the fantasy of a good yarn, then [this movie] may be just for you.” That’s exactly what I would say to you about this film.
As you’re watching the film, you should be aware of something, at first, it’s hard to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. That is gradually revealed as part of the plot. I can say this, without spoiling anything: voodoo practices play a key role. With this clarification made, I can briefly overview the plot.
After Jessabelle, or Jessie for short, is temporarily disabled in an accident, her dad takes her into his house to care for her. But she quickly senses a paranormal presence in the house. She has horrifying nightmares and is attacked by a ghost who attempts to take away a bracelet that was once her mother’s.
One day, she finds video tapes that her mother made for her before she was born; her mother died of cancer shortly after she was born. The mother is fortune telling with tarot cards; however, none of the things that she foretells have come true. When Jessie’s father learns that she has found the tapes, he is furious and attempts to burn them, but he accidentally gets burned to death in his shed.
At his funeral, Jessie meets an old friend, Preston, who does everything he can to help her. At the house, the two find many voodoo symbols in the woods, along with a grave with Jessie’s name on it. As the two try to solve this mystery, things only get more darkly mysterious, even causing Jessie to question who she really is.
The violence, as I said, is mature, but portrayed as evil. The car crash is not graphic. There are a few gross-outs, such as a nightmare scene which shows bloody surgery and shows ghosts trying to drown her by putting an oxygen mask on her and filling it with blood. The bones of a murdered infant are found at a grave. Of course, the ghost has a scary appearance, and she fights both Jessie and Preston. A bathtub fills with black mud, making one of the fight scenes even freakier. Jessie is tied to a wheelchair and pushed into a lake, but does not die (the ghosts who did it to her knew she would not die, it’s complicated).
There are other elements you should be aware of that are offensive. At the beginning of the film, Jessie is going to cohabit with her boyfriend, who is quickly killed in the car crash (that whole thing is brief). Later, Preston, who is already a married man, forms a romantic attachment with the heroine. It is inspiring how much he is willing to help her, but eventually we do learn that he has feelings for her; and at the end they actually kiss, and she calls him “my love.”
Also, when Jessie first begins watching the tapes, she has no misgivings about the occultic fortune telling. It is understandable and good that she’s excited to see the mother she never knew, but she is clearly interested in the fortune telling, too.
Here are some other various bones to pick (pun intended). The word “hell” is misused several times. Almost throughout the whole movie, Jessie wears clothes that reveal some amount of cleavage—sometimes a lot, sometimes a little.
Before we learn of the romantic feelings between Preston and Jessie, his care for her is a very positive role model. A daughter who has long sought her mother’s inheritance finally receives it, even though her father rejected her, and she was illegitimate—demonstrating justice being given to a girl, even under circumstances that could cause her to be rejected by everyone.
In the end, the movie’s main message is not bad. Had the film been more specific overall in good morality, I would have given it a higher moral rating. But if you ask me to recommend a good horror movie, this isn’t one of the first ones I would recommend. If you haven’t seen “The Conjuring” yet, watch that instead; it’s from the same producer and has amazing moral quality. Still, albeit with several reservations, “Jessabelle” is interesting.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex: Mild (no nudity)
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.