Starring Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn, Tom Graziani
Directed by Doron Paz and Yoav Paz
Found footage gets a new spin by way of Google Glass (though not specifically referred to by brand) in the Paz brothers’ demonic horror JeruZalem. Having just received a set of the snazzy new high-tech face-wear from her father, American student Sarah (Jadelyn) jets off for a European holiday with her friend Rachel (Grobglas).
Becoming acquainted with fellow US traveler Kevin (Tumarkin – sporting a thoroughly unconvincing accent for a supposed American native), the girls decide to accompany him to Jerusalem during Yom Kippur as their first stop.
This, of course, is a Very Bad Decision, as it would appear that one of the gates of hell has chosen this particular point in time to throw itself open and unleash a plague of demons and Nephilim onto the streets of this historic city.
Cue much POV-lensed running around (though, thankfully, Doron and Yoav wisely refuse to let their cast scream constantly) as demons fly overhead and our group attempt to escape the now-gated city intact.
JeruZalem is not without cool ideas. The central concept is a good one and allows for a number of startling images – glimpses of the gigantic Nephilim stomping over rooftops like a demonic version of Cloverfield‘s kaiju, for example – but its execution can’t keep up with its ambition.
Lead character Sarah is a particular annoyance – unable to chase down a small child who steals her bag (which, of course, her only other pair of prescription glasses were in, necessitating the constant use of her Glass pair), prone to falling over in silly situations when it suits the narrative, and generally caustic to people who have already gone out of their way to help her. Simply put, she’s a bit of an arse.
Considering it takes JeruZalem around an hour of runtime to finally get to the apocalyptic goods, it’s surprising that very few of the characters are actually worth feeling any concern for. The light in the darkness here is Tom Graziani’s Omar, the charming and affable, party-loving co-proprietor of the hostel at which our group of friends stay during their time in the city. While he’s certainly a playboy, he’s not without a heart and a genuine wish to see everyone make it through this ordeal alive. As a result, his personal tragedy is the only one which feels in any way genuinely affecting.
Attempts at scares are frequently botched, with Glass’ facial recognition tech being obnoxiously pointed out for much of the film as setup to a scene which should be freaky as hell, but just doesn’t cut it. Similarly, the demons appear to be well designed, but are too often seen in mere glimpses or rushed shaky-cam to ever be truly appreciated. A sub-plot involving Sarah’s dead brother is shoehorned in for little payoff.
Technically, it’s convincing for the most part except for a few issues in spatial awareness. One particular scene involving a conversation underneath what appears to be the most cavernous office table in the universe is entirely unpersuasive, and there are moments where seconds of footage will loop back and forth momentarily – possibly as an attempt to hide edits – that just feel weird.
There’s a zombie element to the demonic entities, which sees their scratch/bites cause the victim to devolve and join the monstrous ranks, sprouting fangs, wings and an insatiable urge to kill. Not enough is made of it, though, with most protagonists being unceremoniously taken out of the picture in the blink of an eye, or offing themselves due to the insanity of it all.
JeruZalem nails the sense of place and weightiness loaned to the story by its unique location, but fails to make the grade elsewhere – leaving it little more than another POV spook-house simulator that ultimately isn’t worth the time spent.