This Southern-goth timewaster squanders a charismatic performance from Sarah Snook, as the wheelchair-bound shut-in in a plantation house so decrepit it could be on the cover of a paperback Absalom, Absalom! There's a couple fine (but gratingly shriek-y) ghost scares, and some grandly ripe (and dopily predictable) VHS messages from beyond the grave. But the central mystery drags, its clues never really registering -- they just accumulate, along with hints of backstory, a laundry-like pile you would prefer not to deal with but will have to sort through eventually. Snook is brittle and sometime funny as Jessie, a woman who has lost everything -- and resorts to enticing the old high school boyfriend (Mark Webber) who never got over her. He's married, now, but she's alone in the house -- and totally eager to sleep in front of him in flimsy, low-cut nightwear.
But Snook's too busy being flung about by invisible forces to develop Jessie much more than that, and the best suspense director Kevin Greutert develops is meta: Will the inevitable voodoo knives-and-babies climax come across as a racist boondoggle? Greutert's savvy enough to sprinkle some white folks among his houngans and mambos, but Jessabelle still plays out as Haitian traditions ruining the life of a nice-ish white lady. Mitigating factor for the dreary patches: Jessie's father (David Andrews), annoyed at her snooping around his house, rolls her wheelchair off a pier like that's a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
Kevin GreutertSarah Snook, Mark Webber, David Andrews, Joelle Carter, Ana de la Reguera, Larisa Oleynik, Chris Ellis, Fran Bennett, Amber StevensRobert Ben GarantLionsgate Films