Monday, May 28, 2012

Jonah Lives: Is the New Horror Icon a Zombie?

A Backbrain Exclusive Interview with Luis Carvalho

Among the sub-species of zombies on film, the mindless cannibalistic kind has ruled the cemetery grounds for some time... since, well, 1968 anyway. That's when George Romero's Night of the Living Dead tore its way into the global zeitgeist and made its apocalyptically bloody mark across the celluloid landscape.

But the apocalyptic zombie isn't the only kind out there. Lurking in the shadows behind the video shelves has always been another kind -- the living dead that crawls out of the grave, still dead but intent on revenge.

More corporeal than your average ghost, less suave than your average vampire (and more interested in ripping and tearing flesh than drinking blood) and generally more self-aware than its shambling kin, the revenant (as it is more correctly named) adds personality to a monster that is notoriously impersonal -- and therefore could acquire horror icon status, along with Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Freddie Kruger, Pinhead, the Candyman and their ilk. A new icon has been missing from the horror scene now for a fair time, despite a few decent attempts. Could Jonah be the One?

Official Trailer:

"The original idea of Jonah Lives was to be made on Super 8mm film for entry into Cinemagic's 1982 short film festival," writer, producer, director and editor of Jonah Lives, Louie Carvalho, told the Backbrain. "I wrote a 17-page screenplay that involved four teens who steal a flag from a grave and later have the ghoul come back from the dead to get his flag back. I budgeted the flick at $1000.00 and was assured by family members that they would invest in the project. When it came time to collect the money, I was denied and the project died it's first death."

But, in the tradition of all good revenants, Jonah didn't stay long buried.

"The second attempt would be some seven years later. I fleshed out the script to 44 pages and added two female characters and the Ouija board element. It was to be filmed on videotape as technology had changed. However, the project was not meant to be as the friends involved could not commit to the required schedule, causing the project to die once again."

So, back to the boneyard.

"In 1992, I added a few more pages and again gathered a cast together from family and friends to take another stab at making the project, this time on Digital 8mm. In the rehearsals for Jonah it was evident that I would never get the kind of performances needed to make the film something that would be taken seriously, and Jonah seemed to be dead for good."

"After 20 years of doing virtually nothing creatively speaking, I could never shake the filmmaking bug and in September of 2009, I met an aspiring rap artist, Sandro G, through a cousin who was his manager. Tony asked me and my long-time friend Gary Andre if we were interested in doing videos for him. We accepted and the filmmaking bug kicked in with a vengeance when we saw that we were able to create several videos, each one different from the other and all good if not great. We knew then that the time was right to dust off the 60-page script and I took to re-writing it into a screenplay that would attract some professional people.
"Gary and myself took Dov Siemens' two-day film school in Boston on a Summer weekend in 2010. Dov suggested we make our script great and hire a professional DP, and that is what we set out to do. After hiring Rich Marino, DP on the Putt Putt Syndrome, and getting [Scream Queen] Brinke Stevens to come on board, we were able to raise the initial 50,000 dollars to begin putting the pieces into place."
Behind the Scenes Shots:

Taking inspiration from the films of George Romero (especially Creepshow "with its Fathers Day story), the vengeful stories and blood-drenched imagery of EC and other horror comics from Eerie Magazine to Marvel, along with the gothicesque Hammer films of the 1960s, in particular the UK studio's Dracula films, and the in-your-face grotesqueries of Italian horror directors, Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, Carvalho set out to create a film that would a worthy successor to these garish greats.

"I didn't directly lift anything from these sources," he added, "but I think their influence shows. I told make-up artist Ben Bornstein that I wanted Jonah to look like a Bernie Wrightson zombie straight out of a Tales from the Crypt comic and that is what he gave me."

Below: Wrightson vs Bornstein

Jonah Lives, then, is a dark tale of vengeance from beyond the grave, centering on a group of teenagers who unintentionally supply the catalyst for the murdered Jonah’s return from the world of the dead.

"It is truly a unsettling nightmare done in a loving style for the horror genre and using old school aesthetics," said Carvalho. "You might say it's Breakfast Club by way of Night of the Living Dead, if I had to describe it further."

Images from the Film:

Jonah Lives premiered in New England on April 22, and from there will screen at Rock and Shock in October and the NYC Horror Film Festival in November. Carvalho plans to enter it in several other upcoming film festivals in the hope that it will find a distributor who can get the film to as wide an audience as possible. As always with independent filmmaking, he and his crew are flying on hope.
"As a first time feature filmmaker," Carvalho told us. "I found the experience incredible. Going from doing videos with one partner, to a feature film with a full crew of 26 people was just amazing. So many things that I had read about, what directors are, and what they do and have to be on the set, I experienced first-hand and now I can actually say I know what a director is and what he has to do to make sure he gets what he wants. In the editing room, I actually felt like a thief that had stolen some nifty scenes while my crew was unaware.
"If the audience takes anything away with them from this film, I hope that they feel that it was a different kind of movie from what they have been accustomed to seeing, that they see that this film is a labour of love, that it is a uniquely personal vision from a first-time director. Ultimately, I hope they are entertained and emotionally involved with the characters and what is happening to them and Jonah and maybe still thinking about it after they see it for the first time."
As for the future, Carvalho's next project is The Deported. "It's a street film centered around several young immigrants struggling in the declining economy, who see an easier way to make cash in street hustling and scheming, while the threat of deportation looms over their heads. This one will be done in a gritty street style of Scorsese's Mean Streets and Taxi Driver."

But what about a Jonah Lives sequel? "Well, if Jonah is well received, I have several ideas for a sequel that would be very interesting to explore."

Says Jonah: "I am a select noble breed of the evil undead destined to become the next great horror icon of your time. My rise to power will be legendary...."

Well, if Jonah is going to become the next horror icon, there'll have to be a sequel. We all know you can't keep a good monster down!

Source: Luis Carvalho via Avery Guerra. Facebook page. Official website. Also

Addendum: Teaser Trailer

Addendum 2: More Images

Monday, May 21, 2012

Update: Resurrection

Two years on and it looks like Resurrection -- a sci-fi/horror film from Jeff Burr that the Backbrain first introduced in May 2010 -- is on the verge of release. We still don't know what exactly is being resurrected, but producer and co-writer (with Stuart Price) Bill Dever has sent along the official poster for the feature film, along with a teaser trailer and some pictures.

A USA-UK co-production conceived and produced by Stuart Price and Bill Dever, Resurrection's story revolves around a batch of genetically modified corn that has caused the township that grew it -- and eaten it -- to go berserk -- that is, turn into typical midwestern small-town folk (as depicted by horror films anyway). When a couple of college kids return home over the Easter holiday weekend, they find themselves threatened by a bunch of refugees from a Rob Zombie film. One thing's for certain, there will be blood -- and politics!

The film features Kayla Gill (below), Ervin Ross and Shay Baker as the ingénues fighting for their lives against a town full of crazies.

Jim O'Rear plays Dr Tim Neilson, a scientist who uncovers the evil genetic plot and tries to stop the epidemic before it spreads further. He's seen here with veteran looney Richard Lynch, who apparently plays the President -- and below that taking it out on the corn!.

Filmed in Franklin, Indiana, Resurrection includes a guest cameo by Troma's Lloyd Kaufman.

More pictures from the set:

Source: Bill Dever via Avery Guerra. Text by Robert Hood.