When a couple of American young adults fly to Israel to visit the city of Jerusalem, a biblical nightmare falls upon the city.
January 22, 2016
Doron Paz, Yoav Paz
Doron Paz, Yoav Paz
Yael Grobglas as Rachel
Yon Tumarkin as Kevin
Danielle Jadelyn as Sarah
For years now I’ve been saying it, and I will continue to do so: genre fans beg for something fresh and relatively unexplored, and lash out at those atypical films the moment they land in our laps. You’ve got to wonder if filmmakers, and the watchful eyes of those in Hollywood, don’t feel as though they have to continue churning out remakes in order to keep the masses from collectively defecating on their attempts at originality. While JeruZalem is far from a big budget studio film, it is quite clearly an attempt to do something inventive and refreshing. So, of course we’re seeing critics dropping their bowels on a film that doesn’t warrant anything but respect and a fair shake.
I’ve written a bit on the film at this point, so I’ll try to keep things relatively short and sweet. The story sees a handful of tourists unite in Jerusalem for a responsibility-free good time and a taste of the unique night life. And they experience just these things in the “foundation of peace”, which plays host to energetic underground clubs and plenty of frisky citizens. But there’s something far darker stirring beneath, in the bowls of the historical city, and before these carefree 20-somethings know it, that darkness bursts from the surface, takes to the skies, and like Judah and his men several lifetimes ago, sets the town ablaze. Violence erupts as demons begin attacking the locals. Zombie-like in nature, their bite is infectious, turning man into winged monstrosity with an affinity for terror. Can this group escape alive, or are they all doomed to burn?
I had zero idea as to what this film was about before tuning in. Having steered clear of trailers and still images, as well as the synopsis, I was met with a brilliant surprise. JeruZalem is the unorthodox found footage film I’ve been waiting for. It’s not about typical possession. It’s not about psychopaths, or serial killers. There are no ghostly apparitions sneaking into bedrooms at night. In other words, all of the things that have now become the norm for the handy-cam subgenre are boldly ignored. And that really works, because quite frankly, I’m a little tired of seeing the same damn movie executed to varying degrees of failure. JeruZalem brings something different to the table and surprisingly, it works pretty well.
There are a few editing issues that I wasn’t crazy about (there are moments that almost feel as though the image is skipping, which don’t look too appealing, and likely represents some patch up work), and a subplot that ends up being quite elemental to the story goes a little neglected through the first two acts. That’s a problem, but it’s not a deal breaker by any means, as the Paz brothers (Doron and Yoav), who write and direct, are wise enough to circle back and tie up loose ends in the final act. The “facial recognition” feature, recently utilized in the fair chupacabra flick, Indigenous, also becomes a little tiresome, although it allows for a number of different narrative devices to be exploited. That works.
If there’s any other fault to the film, it may come in the form of slightly under-evaluated personalities. Our two female leads don’t receive a ton of character exploration, which would of course create a more human connection to the protagonists. However, at the same time, Kevin proves to be an easy-going and likable character while the resident playboy with a heart, Omar feels like a sketchy player, but actually has a lot of life to him, and he proves to be shockingly well-intentioned. He’s an awesome character, who makes up for the negligence cursed upon Rachel and Sarah. Another thing that saves this lineup is the fact these characters aren’t cut from abused templates. Kevin and Rachel don’t squeeze into any molds with ease. Omar’s the magnetic one, but he manages to be magnetic without being too loud, overly comedic or annoyingly heroic. These aren’t flawless characters, but they’re a lot more tolerable than what you’ll find in your average found footage flick.
The monster designs are pretty awesome. The picture builds slowly before uncorking insanity in the final act, so we’re not flooded with evil imagery, which leaves a little to be desired as opposed to oversaturating the film for shock value. I’d rather be a little undersold as opposed to oversold. Although a lot of the visual payoffs are drenched in computer generated imagery, this is one of those rare cases in which the digital effects actually impress. That could be a byproduct of the restraint the Paz brothers apply while working toward the climax. Whatever the case, it grabbed me.
Most of JeruZalem grabbed me. It’s not your average subgenre installment, and I love that. This brain has become exhausted watching the recycled ideas filmmakers seem eager to constantly shove in our laps. How many possession found footage films must we see before we accept the fact that we’re watching a “rerun” of the same pic? In a sense, JeruZalem is a found footage film, but it’s nothing like the others you’ve seen. Over the last decade the only found footage features to stand out in my memory are the first Paranormal Activity film, Existence, Trollhunter and Creep. JeruZalem, although not without a few problems, has likely joined those ranks. Only time will tell how often I return to the pic, but my gut says I’ll have this one on the tube again inside the next month or so, and that’s a good sign. If you’re done with all the clichés of found footage, JeruZalem might just be the film you need to see.