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IFI Horrorthon 2015 Review - JERUZALEM

On a trip to Israel, american tourists get caught up in biblical mayhem when a portal to hell opens.


Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Doron Paz, Yoav Paz

Starring: Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn


"Jeruzalem suffers from a lack of funds necessary to give this story the scale it deserves, and after a few fleetingly effective glances at the initial mayhem, the movie all too conveniently has its protagonists retreat to a darkened cave for the final act."





Ultra-modern tech meets ancient mythology in Jeruzalem, the latest entry from Israel's nascent genre filmmaking movement, which began with 2010's Rabies and drew international attention with 2013's Big Bad Wolves. Both of those movies came from the team of Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, and it's another duo, the Paz brothers (Doron and Yoav), at work here. When you think of Israeli filmmaking duos, the names Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus spring to mind, but the current crop are delivering movies far more polished, at least in a technical sense, than those notorious moguls.
Jeruzalem is yet another found footage horror, but before you leave in resignation, this one has an interesting twist, employing a pair of Google Glasses as its recording device. This takes product placement to a whole new level, and I hope the Paz brothers were well rewarded by the search engine giant, but it does raise some intriguing storytelling possibilities that may be utilised to better effect in movies to come than they are here. A couple of narrative twists make use of the glasses' facial recognition feature, which makes me wonder how someone like Brian de Palma might employ this device in service of suspense. As with most found footage movies, we get a shoddy reason for why protagonist Sarah (a mostly offscreen Danielle Jadelyn) continues to film - her prescription glasses are nicked by a street kid, forcing her to rely on the Google device - but this happens so late in the movie that you wonder what her excuse for wearing them constantly up to that point is.
This contemporary technology comes up against ancient biblical mythology. A pre-credits glimpse of a film from the Vatican's secret archive reminds us that the Talmud speaks of three portals to hell - one in the ocean, one in the desert, and one in Jerusalem. It's the latter we're concerned with here, as American tourists Sarah, Rachel (Yael Grobglas) and Kevin (Yon Tumarkin) find themselves in the old city just as said portal decides to open, spilling out winged demons and giants (the latter barely glimpsed due to a lack of budget).
There's a certain cheeky charm in the film's attempt to sell this as an American story, with its Israeli stars pulling off some dodgy Stateside accents and an early New Jersey set scene all too obviously filmed in far warmer climes, complete with background palm trees. The Italian exploitation filmmakers of old would be proud of the Paz brothers' shenanigans in this regard.
Undoubtedly and commendably a highly ambitious undertaking, Jeruzalem suffers from a lack of funds necessary to give this story the scale it deserves, and after a few fleetingly effective glances at the initial mayhem, the movie all too conveniently has its protagonists retreat to a darkened cave for the final act, treating us to a series of badly lit but cost effective close-ups while the characters panic, cry and bicker. This is one of those rare cases where a big budget Hollywood remake may be welcomed.
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