HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Sunday, May 3, 2015

JONAH LIVES -- DVD Review by Porfle

It's hard to speak ill of a low-low-budget independent horror feature that tries as hard as JONAH LIVES (2012), especially when you can tell that writer-director Luis Carvalho is putting his heart into it instead of just churning out a load of generic drivel to stick onto some DVDs. And the way that it doesn't succeed in being a grueling ordeal of terror like the original THE EVIL DEAD is almost entertaining enough in itself.

The teen characters who serve as kill-fodder for the title zombie--four guys and two girls--aren't quite as annoying as usual. There's no dumb blonde, no nympho/horndog couple humping each other all over the place, no virginal good girl, no shallow jock or fratboy prankster.

In fact, they're pretty average until the screaming starts, at which point one becomes a frantic religious fanatic (James Barrett as Tony), one a scoffing skeptic (Ryan Boudreau as Francis), one a just-plain-weird chick with a death wish (Nicole Lasala), and one a levelheaded potential final girl (Jocelyn Padilla as Barbara) with a bun in the oven. The other two guys, Johnny and Jessie (Rob Roy, Aaron Peaslee), don't have girlfriends and are mainly there as zombie bait.

The trouble starts when these fun-loving dopes get together in Francis' basement and can't think of anything else to do besides mess around with a handy Ouija board. Bad idea. An increasingly unhinged Tony warns them against tampering with forces from beyond but goes unheeded. This leads to everyone else getting possessed and jerking around the room rolling their eyes while Tony goes off his rocker.

Meanwhile, in the cemetery, a dead guy named Jonah, who was murdered by his wife for his money, claws his way out of the grave and comes a-callin'. Jonah's an okay monster but he isn't anywhere near as scary as the movie seems to think he is. Basically he's just an actor stalking around in your average dead-guy makeup (he resembles an overcooked Woody Harrelson) and we're supposed to be all terrified and stuff because the ear-splitting musical score tells us so.

It turns out Jonah's wife Zora, played by special guest star Brinke Stevens, is at a shindig that Francis' parents are throwing upstairs for their overaged swinger friends. But before crashing the party and killing her, Jonah must make a detour down to the basement to dispatch all those pesky kids for waking him up.

The horror action that follows is Carvalho's valiant effort to get all Sam Raimi on us, which he mainly does by going nuts with the editing but not in a good way. Some of the badly over-edited sequences, in fact, yield their own perverse fascination as the film practically hyperventilates in an effort to terrify us.

As Jonah pounds away at the door, the kids' repeated attempts to get past him and out of the basement fail to generate much suspense or scariness. One reason for this is that the acting and dialogue are pretty weak even for a teen horror flick of this nature. That's okay if the film makes up for such shortcomings in other ways, but this one doesn't.

Gorewise, there's a severed arm gag and a DAWN OF THE DEAD-style neck chomp that come off pretty well, while the rest of the carnage consists mainly of fake blood being splattered around. The basement setting is a poor substitute for the usual cabin in the woods although the house itself is pretty cool--it's the Luso American Gallery of Antiques in Fall River, Massachusetts, home of Lizzie Borden herself, where the film takes place.

The DVD from Wild Eye Releasing is widescreen with 2.0 sound. No subtitles. Extras consist of two behind-the-scenes shorts with Brinke Stevens, a Fall River "Celebration of the Arts" screening attended by the town's mayor, and two trailers.

Not so bad during its quieter moments, JONAH LIVES goes stylistically haywire when the action starts. Which is kind of fun to watch in its own way, but otherwise it's hard to take seriously.

Buy it at


No comments: