A sextet of young friends hang about together regularly. The four lads - cocky Francis (Ryan Boudreau), wisecracking Tony (James Barrett), geeky Jessie (Aaron Peaslee) and quiet Johnny (Rob Roy) - play ball in the park and poker in the basement of Francis' parents' home, while the two girls of the group - Tony's motormouth girlfriend Lydia (Nicole Lasala) and Francis' secretly pregnant partner Barbara (Jocelyn Padilla) - loiter in the background setting the world to rights.
During one of the aforementioned poker nights, the girls eventually tire of being on the periphery of the fun all the time and demand that the group do something for a change. After the boys' suggestion of strip poker is knocked back, Francis has an idea: he goes upstairs, where his folks are hosting a party, and grabs an old "game" from his bedroom. It is, in actual fact, an Ouija board. Francis returns to the basement and presents his find, claiming to have bought it from a gypsy in the past. He also declares that, with the board, the group can do whatever they want - "we can even raise the dead if we want to"...
So, the group gather round the board and prepare themselves psychologically to hold a séance. All expect for Tony, that is, who's a little freaked out by the idea: he sits in the corner of the room refusing to take part.
The other five get into the ritual, swiftly getting in touch with a spirit by the name of Jonah. Through questioning him, they learn that he was a local guy whose wife poisoned him to get her hands on his money. They end their session by communally summoning Jonah into their world. Although this is done as a joke, unbeknownst to them their devilry has been successful: Jonah (Cesar Pereira) has risen from his nearby grave with revenge in mind.
Now, as coincidences go, this is quite a major one: Jonah's whoring widow, Zora (Brinke Stevens), is a guest at the party going on in the house upstairs...
This film is pretty diabolical. Performances are rum throughout; the actors portraying the lead teens are clearly in their late 20s, at least, and not one of them can act for toffee. Writer-director Luis Carvalho's script is naive, clichéd and predictable - it virtually signposts every "scare". His characters aren't likeable. We don't care about anyone. Even the ostensibly good Tony quickly becomes annoying with his ham-fisted references to Jesus, Hinduism and the like.
There's a fair amount of blood but the FX work is minimal. For the most part, it looks like someone offscreen is chucking bottles of fake blood over the actors. For a film reputedly shot on a $3 million budget, I expected more.
Another major hurdle is the audio in this film. It's been recorded really badly, it seems. Some scenes rely on really unconvincing post-dubbing to compensate, whereas others simply go with the flow and are almost unlistenable as a consequence (overlapping voices; background hissing; muted dialogue at inappropriate turns).
There's no incremental sense of tension either; this just doesn't seem to progress. It's just not a very well-made film (it looks pretty polished, but even the framing is off in most scenes) and it takes a loooong time to reach its 91st minute ending.
If you're buying into the film purely due to Stevens' involvement, I pity you. She's barely in it. And she delivers a below-par performance too.
Left Films brings JONAH LIVES to UK DVD in its uncensored form.
The original 2.35:1 aspect ratio is adhered to, and treated to enhancement for 16x9 televisions. Colours are stable and blacks hold up reasonably throughout. Detail is strong for the duration of playback.
English 2.0 audio is, as mentioned earlier in the review, annoying. No doubt this is because of how the sound was recorded and not due to a flaw in this disc's mastering. It alternates between being muffled, picking up background noise, drowning out conversations with the voices of off-screen actors ... Carvalho is an amateur for letting such sloppiness go by untreated.
A static main menu kicks affairs off. This leads us into an animated scene selection menu affording access to the film by way of 10 chapters.
Bonus features begin with a 56-second montage of behind-the-scenes footage. This doesn't really offer anything of value.
Next up is a 2-minute featurette charting the film's screening at the Fall River Celebrates the Arts festival in 2012. This is fly-on-the-wall type stuff, shot on video, and sees the film introduced by the Fall River's mayor as a packed cinema prepare to watch it on the big screen. The movie receives a big round of applause following its screening.
"Brinke on Set" spends 4 minutes following the actress on the shoot, watching a couple of her key scenes as they're being filmed.
The film's original trailer is also present (2 minutes) and its final trailer (a much tighter, slicker 1-minute affair) follow. Both trailers rely heavily on footage from the early scenes of the film, as if the movie was shot in chronological order and these were prepared before it had been completed.
Finally, we're given previews for other titles in the Left Films roster: THE BLOOD HARVEST, THE DEVIL'S WOODS, CAPTIVE, CLASSROOM 6, SCREAM PARK and BIND. The disc is also defaulted to open with the latter three trailers.
JONAH LIVES is bad.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Left Films|
|see main review|