Jerazalem Movie Review
Written by Simret Cheema-Innis
Released by Matchbox Films
Written and Directed by The Paz Brothers
2015, 94 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 4th April 2016
Yael Grobglas as Rachel Klein
Yon Tumarkin as Kevin Reed
Danielle Jadelyn as Sarah Pullman
Tom Graziani as Omar
‘A church next to a synagogue next to a temple all stuck together,’ is enough of a premise for a horror film, but the Paz Brothers push the boundaries a touch further with Jeruzalem, a nifty found-footage movie about a group of tourists who venture to an old ancient city full of superstitions and eventually the undead.
Best friends Sarah and Rachel meet fellow traveller and anthropologist Kevin en route to their long-awaited vacation in Tel-Aviv. Kevin persuades them to explore the old city especially with it being Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of repentance; quite ironic since all the girls want to do is party hard. But with Kevin being so charming, and Sarah’s soft spot for the nomad, they decide to change their plans for a few days venturing out to the old city.
All three of them settle into their enchanting hostel welcomed by a perfect and handsome host Omar who shows them around the town and gets them acquainted with the local nightlife. It’s here we learn that the girls in fact are Jewish, if you hadn’t got a gist of that earlier in the film, but comments like ‘Is she really Jewish?’ by Omar who is of Muslim decent, really make light fun of the whole Jewish/Muslim mêlée.
The eve of Yom Kippur approaches and a day out in an underground cave spooks Kevin and makes him sick. Then a visit to the Western Wall - where a reluctant Sarah writes down her wish, naming god as an asshole - is suddenly followed by terrorist attacks. The local army police won’t say anything, but run for cover in the hostel and soon the girls learn that the attack is of a more supernatural nature and the town has gone crazy with flying demonic-zombie creatures.
Jeruzalem has re-established the reason why we first enjoyed found-footage, it’s reinvented itself through the clever product placement of Google Glass which is the main selling-point of the film. The action is carried forward through the various applications, the pace determined through the different perspectives which you get if you wear glasses. It’s a domestic necessity; sometimes we remove spectacles and put them on the side, or friends might like to try them on and have a play around. This is exactly how the film succeeds in being able to exploit these everyday perspectives including the main character Sarah. She might be a vessel in telling the story, but we actually get to see her character in action and her face from time to time.
The film’s constant movement is extremely interactive, taking the audience through the historical parts of the town, long winding back streets, busy bazaars, strange and comical characters teamed with a mysticism that the film conveys rather well. There are also similarities between The Exorcist and the Agrabah's marketplace in Aladdin where cultural superstitions and traditions foreshadow and set the scene for impending doom.
If only Jeruzalem could have explored the mystical elements more, why the apocalypse of demon-zombies now? I suppose it would make sense with all the terrorism in the world at the moment, the world’s sinning is at its pinnacle. But it would’ve been even more interesting to further our knowledge on the culture of possession and exorcism in Jewish and Muslim culture rather than launch us into predictable anarchy and madness.
Although there is considerable foreshadowing from start to finish, parts of the story are mashed together like a parody. Dialogue in the exposition is unbelievable, for example ‘Oh my god that kid from the video, that was you,’ Sarah quickly explains under her breath after a mental patient rambles on about his mother being possessed in the 70s, a scene that is established at the beginning of the film. It’s a lazy attempt of connecting the dots.
A diversion to the mental asylum begs a question of style over content. There was no need to for an elaborate scene in a mental asylum. It wasn’t showing anything we hadn’t seen before.
Creature design, however, are impressive from a distance before running into video-game territory. The idea of a demonic-zombie is clever, and that if scratched or bitten in accordance to the trope, you become infected, possessed and then transform into a winged zombie-demon: ‘She’s dead but she just doesn’t know it yet.’ Goliath even makes an appearance, and David the mental patient comes prepared with a slingshot.
The Paz Brothers have succeeded in providing us with a unique take on an apocalypse story. It unites western mentalities with a respect for old traditions and beliefs. It also puts to rest certain stereotypes and highlights others which adds to the comical nature of the film. The best part is the alliance of three religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam in their fight against evil and how they all couldn’t succeed in fighting the devil. The Paz Brothers’ work in Israel’s growing horror scene is something to look out for.