After a hit and run that claims his brother’s life, Eli spirals into paranoia and depression until he begins to believe that his brother will return from the dead to take the lives of those responsible for his death. Eli confronts Brandon, the jock at his high school who is believed to be behind the wheel that tragic night. The resulting altercation sets Eli in front of the school’s guidance councilor, Jessie, while Brandon and his friends are sent to detention with the principal, Addison. Eli reveals that his brother will rise from the grave to take vengeance on the teens locked in detention down the hall. Jessie believes the boy to be traumatized and delusional with grief until her boyfriend, Travis, a local police officer, informs her that the boy’s grave was unearthed and the body is missing.
Matt Orlando’s first feature film, A Resurrection, follows its two main groups of characters through its script. The first group is the adults: Jessie, the high school guidance counselor played by Misha Barton; Travis, a police officer tracking down clues to the disappearance of Devon’s body from its grave; and, Principal Addison played by Michael Clarke Duncan. The second group is the seniors: Eli played by J. Michael Trautmann as the troubled teen who claims his dead brother is coming to kill the others; Brandon played by Nick Jandl, the jock who was driving the car that ran over Eli’s brother; Nick played by Stuart Stone, who confesses to Jessie that they were involved in the accident; and Alex, Tammy and Dian. The adults are trying to work out the mystery while the kids are trying to stay alive, dealing with keeping their secret safe. Buried between the two groups is a mystery of whether Eli is desperately troubled or if a Bruja did indeed cast a spell to raise his brother from the dead. The mystery never elevates to the heights of suspense the script strives for, even while the entire cast takes the film seriously and convincingly. The premise is strong and intriguing but the film takes too long to choose which path it will take.
Mischa Barton leads the cast as the high school guidance councilor, Jessie. She is basically the Sherlock Holmes of the film trying to piece the mystery together. Sympathetic to Eli’s pain and grief, she takes his mad ramblings seriously enough to question “what if?” While she never buys into it whole-heartedly, she suspends her disbelief long enough to recognize more than a few troubling truths. This allows the film to balance between finding Eli simply mad or a victim of the supernatural. Mischa Barton is the center to the entire story for which she proves to be admirably suited. The more the film concentrates on her, the more interesting it becomes. It would not have hurt, however, if she could figure things along a little faster to get to the exciting bits much sooner. The film also suffers later when her character suffers a wound that has her literally crawling on the floor, slinking past the locked detention room leaving a bloody trail. While it provides the other characters an “oh, crap” moment, it disables her role leaving her a non-participant in her own story.
Devon (Final Destination, Idol Hands) Sawa turns in an effective performance as Jessie’s boyfriend who happens to be a deputy sheriff. While he primarily serves as a means to deliver exposition about the nature of Eli’s claims, the whereabouts of the missing dead brother and the participation of a possible Bruja, Sawa handles the material with a mixture of seriousness and amusing disbelief. The more he finds out about the supernatural elements, the more he struggles to convince himself that the Bruja and her companions are only trying to manipulate Eli – and, ultimately, Jessie as well. The film would do well to have more of him in the story.
One of the problems with A Resurrection is determining who is the film’s true focus. Is it Jessie or is it Eli? Jonathan Michael Trautmann plays Eli wearing a dour frown throughout the entire picture. He is so distraught with the oncoming onslaught that is quickly becomes one note. Trautmann is particularly adept at displaying Eli’s brow-beaten disdain for his fellow classmates that he is effectively sympathetic as the underdog, the loner. He also dances between insanity and remorse as well. It’s a shame the script did not afford the actor more to do with his role as he is memorable wearing the character’s skin.
Director Matt Orlando sets up the film quickly with a fairly large cast for a low budget film. He manages to keep the lose ends close to hand never allowing them to get too far out of control. The script has many of the characters locked in detention without a means of escape allowing him, or perhaps forcing him, to focus on the adult characters for the most part. The film seems to waste a good opportunity to have the Breakfast Club on the run from a serial killer motif play out to all its gory promise. Instead, the violence and payoff to all the discussions and warnings is held off to the third acts. Much like an extended Tales from the Crypt episode, the film devolves into a back-from-the-grave revenge story with a twist. The gore is fun, but quick or edited oddly so not to have a clear idea of what has happened to the characters.
A Resurrection is a solid low budget entry with an interesting premise and enjoyable third act. The film would benefit from a more focused lead character or a more clearly defined antagonist. It ends up being a little too much Scooby-Doo causing the film to drag and become repetitive. Devon Sawa makes the most of his part delivering brief, entertaining interludes outside the school with dead pigs, mysterious Bruja and unearthed graves. Mischa Barton carries much of the film mixing equals parts Velma and Daphne – and a sprinkle of Fred. When the supernatural elements take over the film kicks it up a notch or two with gore, suspense and shocks aplenty. A Resurrection nearly makes it out of the grave of generic horrors alive but gets entangled in the overly plotted roots and school hallway tombs to be more than a mildly entertaining romp.
2.5 out of 5
A Resurrection (2013)