Shock Interview: Jessabelle Director Kevin Greutert

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JessabelleIn Jessabelle, opening in select theaters and on VOD this Friday, November 7th: Returning to her childhood home in Louisiana to recuperate from a horrific car accident, Jessabelle (Sarah Snook) comes face to face with a long-tormented spirit that has been seeking her return – and has no intention of letting her escape.

Shock Till You Drop spoke with director Kevin Greutert, a longtime editor who made his feature debut with Saw VI who then went on to helm Saw: The Final Chapter and, later, Jessabelle for Blumhouse Productions. Below, you’ll also find a handful of exclusive stills from his supernatural thriller.

Shock Till You Drop: In terms of segueing from something like torture porn to a supernatural thriller, how easy was it to switch gears tonally?

Kevin Greutert: I was keen to do something different after having worked on the Saw films. That kind of hard-R horror isn’t my first love in movie-making and storytelling. When Jason Blum sent me the script for Jessabelle, I flipped because it was what I was looking for. It was an intriguing character drama that also happens to be a scary ghost story. I loved the characters and the cast. It was a real treat for me and I felt very at home. It was a throwback to movies I really like like The Innocents and The Haunting and Peter Weir’s The Last Wave.

Shock: A lot of the movie rests on Sarah Snook’s shoulder – what made her stand out?

Greutert: She’s not a household name but she’s fantastic. Like the character she plays, she’s beautiful, wise and emotional. She has a beguiling look and manner to her. She’s funny. She’s one of these people that walks into a room and you know you’re in the presence of a movie star. There was something so naturalistic about what she was doing. 

Shock: The script is by Robert Ben Garant, who is mostly known for comedy, were you surprised this darkness came from him?

Greutert: I was dumbfounded when I read it. This is a heartfelt script that came out of a different part of his brain than The Night of the Museum or Reno 911. He’s from the South and has spent a lot of time in Louisiana, so this has been percolating for years with this idea of: what if you escaped all of this? Made a clean break from your troubled family but then tragedy strikes and you have to be reinserted into your own life. That was the kernel of an idea for this movie. There’s a bit of wit to the film, but it’s not a comedy. I can say I’ve never read a script like this that was ready to go. Jason Blum called me on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and we went right into pre-production the week after Thanksgiving. 

Shock: The film calls into play supernatural elements you don’t see that much today – that southern feel, voodoo mysticism…

Greutert: Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a good voodoo movie. And like I said, Last Wave, when I first saw it, I was intrigued by that story of a lawyer who gets drawn into aboriginal mysticism. There was something to Jessabelle that pulled me in about somebody getting pulled into weird mystical world right here in America that points to a spirit realm, something that’s beyond our experience. Those are the things that excite me.

Shock: Looking ahead, how does your next film Visions compare to Jessabelle – I presume it’s supernatural, so how do you keep these fresh for yourself creatively?

Greutert: Good question, because my new film Visions has some similarities. They’re both subjective stories about a woman going through something difficult. In both movies, they’re reality is questionable. So, there was a part of me that said, do I want to go down this road a second time? But they’re different enough movies. I don’t want to give anything away because it has a great twist ending. They both do. Both films have different approaches in style. The well has not dried up.

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