Evil Rises to Kill Teenagers! “Jonah Lives” review!

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A group of bored teenagers decides to up their spirits by dusting off a $25 Ouija board and taking it for a supernatural spin to reach those beyond the grave. When deep in chant, a contact is made with the spirit of a murdered man named Jonah. The arrogant teens conjuring seeks to try and resurrect Jonah for relentless vengeance on his killer – his wife. The teens’ arrogance gets the best of them and Jonah does rise from the grave, but his thirst for murder homes in on the teens’ lives and Jonah traps them inside a basement with no way out and no way of calling for dire help.
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“Jonah Lives” construction tends to be a respectful gothic budget horror film of meshed sub genres. Deep within the bone structures of the Luis Carvalho directed film lies a grab bag that includes zombies, possession, torment, and vengeance, but with a conglomerate of styles wrapped into one film, the difficult struggle of pinning down the motivation of our killer Jonah seems lost in translation. Certainly a force to be reckoned with who absolutely looks the part as a deteriorating dead guy, Jonah awakes from his angst-slumber to seek vengeance, but why take it out on the teenagers who resurrected him? That’s the million dollar question. Did the Ouija board inject evilness into Jonah to put him on such a murderous rage? What’s also odd is the character Zora, Jonah’s murderous ex-wife, is part of the cast but not necessarily included in harms way in the basement and isn’t a primary target for Jonah. Instead, Zora party-hardies upstairs with the rest of the intoxicated grownups.
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B-horror vet Brinke Stevens headlines “Jonah Lives” as Zora. Stevens’ role is fairly minor when compared to the other cast members who names probably make the D-list film status and are not as recognizable as Brinke Stevens. However, there are some strong performances from the relatively unknown cast giving the film more girth than the story itself. Lead actor Ryan Boudreau’s acting style is very relaxed and smooth as a known-it-all jock with a guilt-ridden conscious that brings the character a full 180 degrees. I wanted to note Nicole LaSala’s character Lydia, who either has a breakdown after the brutal and gruesome death of her boyfriend at the hands of Jonah or she just shares some sort of Ouija board connection with Jonah that drivers her absolutely mad. The tell all about Lydia comes to no unfold. LaSala’s embodies the soul of the Joker from Batman for Lydia who constantly laughs and being mean spirited toward the remaining survivors. I didn’t necessarily feel the spiritual connection between Lydia and Jonah and lean toward nixing that theory.
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The special effects are very minor, but appreciatively practical. The minute effects shouldn’t be unexpected due to budgetary constraints. Carvalho and his special effects team along with some simple editing tricks goes a long way. Not as bloody as hoped, but Jonah does commit to a classic zombie bite to the neck and takes a chunk out, stretching the skin and spewing blood out of the wound, chops an arm off Jean Rollin’s “Grapes of Death” style and bashes the victim with it, and caves in a few teen skulls. While there are moments of editing brilliance, there were many scenes that over edited and, basically, replayed the same scene from a different angle and this reoccured multiple times. Also, massive editing effect is like having an epileptic episode that numbs the brain.
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“Jonah Lives” hit retail outlets this past April and this 2012 zombie revenge film is looking to rise above the rest of the new releases. I’m thinking it’ll stay grounded because it’s resembles much of the same we’ve all seen before. I’d found myself entranced more with the score by Russell Estrela as it blends tonal styles of Italian Giallo with the 80’s slasher such as the repetition of Harry Mandfredini to the synth’s of John Carpenter. Check it out yourself from Wild Eye Releasing.

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