Wednesday, 14 September 2016

JeruZalem - review

2015 (Israel)

Contains mild spoilers.

If this was an advert for google glass, I'm sold! The ease in which they not only recorded Sarah Pullman's (Danielle Jadelyn) Israeli adventure, but dealt with all the knocks, crashes and intermittent wifi issues that come with a full on holy apocalypse was remarkable. Also, Jerusalem might well be one of the world's oldest cities, with heritage and significance second to none, but my god do they have good internet. Immediate non-pixelated Skype calls, near instant facial recognition with Facebook profile integration, and hd music streaming available 24-7; when do I move? They also make for a genuinely credible reason for recording all the carnage, chaos and death that comes with an end-of-the-world level event; and maybe we finally have the answer to the headache which dogs all first person found footage films; that of pulling off authentic justification for not putting the camera down with all around going to hell and where self-preservation clearly dictates it would at least help.

Sarah is not having a good time of it. Mourning the passing of her brother she's decided on a short getaway to Tel Aviv with her bosom buddy Rachel Klein (Yael Grobglas). On the plane they're quick to befriend Kevin (Yon Tumarkin), a young, affable religious-apocalypse scholar and future love-interest who persuades them to come to Jerusalem with him first. Not long after and checked in to a local hotel / hostel run by soon to be willing city guide Omar (Tom Graziani) they're out, hitting the sites, the bars and partying without a care in the world. There's a long build up before it's all running, screaming and trying really hard not to die, but writer and directors Doron and Yoav Paz do such a magnificent job of bringing Jerusalem to life that you can't help but we swept up in the girls' enthusiasm. It also gave them chance to flesh out the four main characters such that when it does all kick-off there's genuine emotional investment in their fate.

Now just because it's clearly wings and demons doesn't mean it's not zombies. I was a little worried (if that's the right word) coming into this that there wouldn't be enough to warrant an examination but I needn't have been. It may well be the holy apocalypse; last judgement; Yawm al-Qiyāmah; the final and eternal judgement by God of the people in every nation; but other than the torn bat-like wings, in all ways it positively screams traditional modern zombie. Now I've read Matthew and Luke; I've even read me some Revelation, Daniel and Isaiah, and I'm not sure it was ever intimated that judgement would come in the form of flesh eating zombie demons and a transmittable transforming infection. Strip away religion and that's primarily what we have; an extremely virulent infection that's passed primarily through bites; foul, fetid, hungry and pretty angry undead who can only be taken out with a headshot and an exponential headache. Still, at least it makes a change from mad scientists and incompetent chemical spills.

What it gets right, is gets right really well. The build-up, characters and outbreak; the genuinely expansive feeling, end-of-the-world city siege; the demons' appearance and behaviour, and the general atmosphere of dread, foreboding and oozing evil. I even loved the opening found footage; a short clip from 1972 with priests of all religions desperately calling to their Gods in order to exorcise a young woman in the throes of a zombie-demon transformation. What I'm not sure it does get quite right however, is the whole golem / Pacific Rim size throwaway background shenanigans and a rather rushed and cheap feeling final fifteen minutes, with the gang returning to a previously used location, Solomon's Quarries, in order to flee the city. Rather than act as the tense and claustrophobic conclusion, it rather felt like they'd run out of ideas and money. I'm also not convinced with the story line that sees Kevin fall apart and get quickly shipped out to the local loony bin the eve his lifelong obsession might actually be relevant.

The [REC] franchise is the easiest and most accurate comparison I can make for JeruZalem. Again it's demonic forces, the devil, possession, zombies, found footage and there's a very natural feel and some truly terrifying moments. Freed from the apartment block the Paz brothers have a whole city to play with and do a good job telling what is quite the depressing, biblical apocalypse story on a grand scale. Perhaps not as coherent, nor scary, JeruZalem is still an extremely solid found footage horror that clearly benefits from its location and the unique zombie origin story so as hide what perhaps is quite the derivative and predictable story. Still, given its small budget, its unique selling points and its genuinely tense and brooding atmosphere it's quite an accomplishment, recommended - 7/10.


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