A group of teens foolishly play with a Ouija board and contact the spirit of a murdered man, who they soon resurrect from the grave in the form of a murderous zombie, intent on avenging his own death and stalking the teens down one by one until he can get to his killer.
In the film, JONAH LIVES, we meet a group of six friends whom often like to hang out on Friday nights. Every Friday night the six of them meet up in the basement space of Francis' house. The film's plot picks up when the friends meet on such a night. But when a slow night of cards and gossip begins to become a bore, it is one of the two girls of the group, Lydia, who suggests that the group get into something a little more interesting. This brings Francis to suggest that the group play a "game". After retrieving a "spirit board"(better known as Ouija), the group of friends,(well, except for Tony, who is strongly against it) decide to try their hand at talking to the dead through the device. Because after all, it couldn't possibly actually work, right? Well, as fate would have it - just as with every other Horror film, it is revealed that they couldn't be more wrong. After a short time of asking for answers to some of the more routine questions of the board, the group of teens are able to achieve the thing that they had only joked about doing. And that's, raise the dead. With the board, Francis and the rest make contact with a man named Jonah, who just so happens to have been murdered. Well into his sixties, Jonah Mathios was a man who was poisoned to death by his wife, who only wanted him for his money - and he's not so happy about that. Now resurrected, Jonah is back from the dead, and he wants revenge, and no one is safe from his vengeful wrath of terror - not even the teens who raised him from his deathly grave. Soon, Jonah begins to slash, and bash anyone in his path. Whether it be the basement or the house(in which Francis's father is conveniently hosting a raucous house party), it seems that no one will be spared.
When it comes to "spirit boards", or whatever you choose to call them, the Horror genre has been no stranger to them. The idea of talking to the dead via some sort of board, has been done and done again. Horror enthusiasts might best remember the subject being used in a film such as 1986's WITCHBOARD directed by Kevin Tenney, while, members of the "now generation", may only know of the subject in film, as it was used in the most recent mainstream Horror, OUIJA (A film that I still haven't seen, but it's likely that I will see it eventually, suppose). But the point is, the subject has been done many times over. So, with all honesty, when I went in to view Writer/Director Luis Carvalho's JONAH LIVES. I expected more of the same stuff. And because that it is low budget, I figured that it would be just another straight forward copy-cat style Horror. However, coming away from the film, I can tell you that, I am actually pretty surprised at just how well that I was able to enjoy it.
As mentioned, JONAH LIVES was made on a low end budget. Yes, it may not be great per se, or better yet, even the best of its kind. But one has to appreciate the fact that there was obviously a lot of effort put into the film. This isn't some kind of homemade Horror film that was shot by someone with any old camera, or one that puts together a random cast, only for the sake of dying on camera, at the hands of a film's antagonist. This film has a plot, and even various further plot elements which develop as the film moves along. While watching the film, I was able to spot a few things that seem to have been inspired by other films. The staging of the "Jonah" character rising from his gravely slumber could have very well been inspired by the likes of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI : JASON LIVES, while the idea of having dead victims seemingly come back to life to torment those still living, and the fact that Jonah is able to "possess" the bodies of victims, or would-be victims, kind of resembles THE EVIL DEAD. While there have been a lot of low budget Horror efforts that were either inspired by, or pay homage to their more famous predecessors, it is often that the films are just that, and that alone. Many of the films, get caught up in the idea of being like the films which they imitate, while bringing nothing of its own to the table. It was nice to see that the filmmakers here were able to be both, inspired, and bring some of its own originality, thus meshing the two to create something that is fairly entertaining.
However, the film's well flowing pace and well put together plot aren't the only things which I took notice of. In fact, I felt that the film's special effects were achieved nicely as well. Again, especially considering the film's budget. Yes, there may be a few moments, such as the severing of one's arm that leaves little to believe, but trust me, I have seen worse. The filmmakers are able to keep things together gore-wise by carefully taking the film's budget into consideration. No, most of the gore sequences are not elaborate, but they work well for the film, due to the manner in which they are shot. And also, I must say that I did dig the overall design of "Jonah" himself(who looks like some kind of offshoot of the villain "Red Skull" from the CAPTAIN AMERICA films). The design is just another budget achievement that doesn't fail to impress. In the end, all of this combined, results in JONAH LIVES being a surprisingly fun film for the most part.
7/10 I must admit that the scoring in JONAH LIVES is probably one of the best things about the film. Using things such as synthesizer, as well as female harmonizing, composer, Russell Estrela, was able to create a score with an old-school Horror feel. The opening and closing themes in particular, are equally fantastic.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
As I said above, it may not be great, or the best, but it is surprisingly entertaining. I had fun with this film for what it is. For a film of it's budget, it generally achieves what it sets out to do. No, not everyone in the cast is at the same level acting-wise, and while a better story and gore is surely to be seen elsewhere, for what it is, JONAH LIVES, is a pretty fun time. If you are someone who appreciates a fun B-movie, I would recommend this film to you.