Jeruzalem review: Exciting and overwhelming, but also nerve-wracking and cruel.
Director: Doran Paz, Yoav Paz
Cast: Tom Graziani, Yael Grobglas, Danielle Jadelyn, Yon Tumarkin
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Synopsis: Three American tourists are trapped in Jerusalem during an apocalyptic event.
Once again horror finds itself at the found footage door. Most ideas may seem to be exhausted, and while it’s true that JeruZalem is merely rehashing and revisiting ideas that have been done before, it also does it all very well and has a few tricks up its sleeves. Directed by the Paz borthers, Doran and Yoav, this Isralian horror uses a couple of American tourists to both explore Jerusalem, as well as helping to create a more accessible horror for big audiences. So, we have zombies, found footage, American tourists; is there anything new to be found here? Thankfully, there is.
Recovering from the death of her brother, Sarah (Jadelyn) is convinced by her best friend Rachel (Grobglas) to venture to Tel Aviv. They soon change course when they meet an Indiana Jones style anthropologist who is going to Jerusalem to investigate cultural references to the end of days. Our two female heroes are fairly standard, with the bright and bubbly Rachel coaxing out the shy and reclusive Sarah. Luckily our two leading ladies bring a friendship to life, meaning this chalk and cheese pairing works, as we see that Sarah’s reclusiveness is the result of her family tragedy.
JeruZalem plays it’s strongest card in the way in which the film is shot. Far from being just a handheld footage effort, this is completely shot through technological eyeglasses that definitely aren’t Google Glass (wink, wink). This allows our protagonist to go hands free, is a genuine technological marvel that you can understand why they are being used so frequently, are prescription so are genuinely needed to see, and offer a wealth of useful tools that add to the film’s experience and even adds in some comedy moments.
As the characters explore Sarah can call up maps to find her way, or brings up Wikipedia like entries that we can read instead of having to listen to too much expository dialogue. The face scanning function recognises characters’ Facebook pages, which quickly gives us a character lowdown, as well as pictures that show us what they are like, once again saving time and allowing the horror we all came to see to take centre stage. Then we have some funny messages from Sarah’s dad that appear, or little malfunctions such as music being played at inappropriate times.The glasses may be gimicky, but they serve a purpose too.
Outside of the shooting process, we get a wealth of characters that are exactly the kind of people you might meet on holiday, but in a religion focused city. Rather than try to deal with such touchy issues, the Paz brothers bring characters together in a time of crisis and religion is soon forgotten about. There is also a wealth of mythology to be explored, with traditional zombies making way for far more interesting winged demons that look spectacular on film.
With a gradual build-up that makes Jerusalem the star, we get to explore traditional holiday maker sites, as well as being thrown down narrow alleys and smaller establishments. These beautiful vistas put World War Z’s use of Morocco as a stand in for The Holy City to shame.
As the film reaches an extended and phenomenal climax, we are given panic and confusion on a Cloverfield level. You feel a part of the pushing crowds and screaming onlookers, and although the event itself takes over from the characters, it’s more apt to say by this point we have taken the place of the characters.
JeruZalem doesn’t quite have the budget to deliver on its best moments during the final hurrah, but it is a tense and often scary film. Outside the glasses, you won’t discover anything new, but you should feel heavily invested in the events that unfold. There are sequences where characters look at events on TV, powerless to do anything with a sense of defeat in their eyes. That is how JeruZalem can make us feel. It’s exciting and overwhelming, but also nerve-wracking and cruel.
Jeruzalem review by Luke Ryan Baldock, August 2015.
Jeruzalem was screened at Frightfest 2015.