The Foundation of Peace Is Ablaze: Is JeruZalem the Latest Awesome Found Footage Flick?
There’s no need to stretch truths or attempt to invest in something that isn’t genuinely existent, so we’re not going to tell you that JeruZalem is a perfect film; it’s not. The picture has a few editing issues (it could be simple post-production design, but eyeing things, I personally believe it’s a maneuver to disguise rough moments in the editing process), and the frequent “facial recognition” (something that the recently released Indigenous also utilizes) pop-ups in the image are a bit annoying, but outside of these two noticeable problems, JeruZalem makes for pretty smooth sailing and brings something that feels genuinely new to the screen.
For a found footage feature this seems nearly inconceivable, and that’s part of what makes the picture so endearing: It works where it shouldn’t… and it’s wicked fun.
The story sees a handful of random tourists (within the entire group there are small, already united groups that gather to create the complete ensemble) come together in Jerusalem for fast-paced fun and some hard drinking. And things go well, until all hell breaks loose in Jerusalem. Literally, Hell breaks loose and flames erupt in what was known as the “foundation of peace” before Judah’s men set it ablaze. We see glimpses of wings passing overhead, and anyone watching the film who hasn’t tuned in to the trailers (myself included) and still imagery in advance will likely begin scratching his/her head. What the hell is this? It’s what you didn’t expect. It’s something quite atypical of found footage features, which tend to pride themselves on believable root concepts (possessions, serial killers, and of course, the oft-discussed paranormal activities of the world). There isn’t much in the way of believability when it comes to winged monsters with infectious bites.
JeruZalem is man versus zombie-demon. But these zombie-demons don’t present themselves in the form of simple, spiritually overtaken human bodies, as any other possession piece would. These are actual demons, sans those who are physically attacked and subsequently transformed into winged monstrosities from the flaming depths. And plenty of said attacks occur, all while hordes of demons fly and stomp their way through the city, unleashing fury at every turn.
Our tourists, caught up in the insanity of it all, attempt to escape this city by any means necessary, even if it means taking to subterranean depths, where more creatures could be waiting in the darkness. With a little unexpected help (that ties up a semi-neglected subplot, that, even if somewhat disregarded at times, feels like it works relatively well), someone will indeed escape the city, but, as it turns out, leaving Jerusalem could create an unforeseen problem.
The monster designs in the flick are awesome. It’s a blend of digital effects and practical effects, with an emphasis on digital. Typically I’m not a fan of computer-generated imagery, but in this case the angle works. The Paz Brothers (Doran and Yoav) do an excellent job of entertaining the audience without thrusting the beasts into our faces relentlessly. There’s a fine line to be walked when it comes to monster movies; it’s easy to show too much or too little. If anything, the Paz Brothers may show us too little, though that’s debatable. Personally, I think they handled it right. We get to see some cool antagonists, but only in controlled bursts in the final act.
The first two acts are spent developing the characters, who are, characteristically, likable personalities. Clichés are generally steered clear of. We don’t have to worry about the expected ultra-douchebag, super slut (the one overly “friendly” girl in the film isn’t at all who you’d predict), and obvious final girl showing up. Some personalities are louder and more pronounced than others, but there are no painfully obnoxious individuals in the lineup. There are also a few tricks played on the audience, as we’re taken down a path that suggests deception by a few prominent players, only to learn we’ve read them entirely wrong. That’s a nice touch that doesn’t seem to be the norm in these films. A lot of found footage flicks paint one-dimensional individuals as the “in” thing, but JeruZalem dares to do something very different.
The picture, even if not action-laden in the early portions, moves well because we’re engaged in what our featured figures are enduring. And that scope of personality type is broad. We’ve got calm, collected individuals; pent-up people ready to burst from their reserved lifestyles; and flamboyant individuals brimming with confidence. And each character seems to exhibit interesting quirks. We’ve got a little bit of everything here, which in turn propels the story forward even in the downtime. It’s a nice adjustment in the landscape of the sub-genre.
As already noted, there are a few obvious problems with the film as a whole. The cons, however, do not outweigh the pros. There are wonders in store for the viewer, and that elevates the entire production above the majority of the pack. We’ve all been waiting for a different hand-held horror, and two entirely unexpected individuals have managed to deliver it. You may not know the name Paz, but you likely will in the future. Creating one of the five most entertaining found footage films to be released in the last nine years (in my opinion, Creep, Existence, Trollhunter, and Paranormal Activity are the only other films of its kind to really ignite serious stimulation since 2007) should work magic for this promising duo.