30th Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘Jeruzalem’ Review

by Mark Allen

Stars: Danielle Jadelyn, Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Tom Graziani, Fares Hananya, Steven Hilder | Written and Directed by Doron Paz, Yoav Paz

yael-grobglas-jeruzalem

Falling firmly in the goofy camp of horror gimmicks is Jeruzaleman Israel-set shocker that uses the holy city as its canvas and Google Glass as its brush. We’ve seen POV films before (REC 2, Enter the Void), but don’t just get to see and hear young American Sarah’s get-away vacation of a lifetime – we get to see the Facebook profiles of everyone she meets, too. Including augmented reality will almost definitely date the film, but it also gives the benefit of lightning-fast exposition; we learn key characters’ names as soon as they appear onscreen along with a snapshot of their personality. It does take something away from the natural character development you might otherwise expect, though a film like Jeruzalem likely wouldn’t have a lot of deep human insight to offer even without the internet specs.

Sarah has a lot of fun experimenting  with Glass’s features, from playing music  to taking pictures and seeing what the weather’s like in the space she’s standing. This is all fairly obvious set-up for later, but it occurs alongside the establishment of Sarah’s key relationships – with her best friend, Rachel, her doting father and Kevin, a ‘charismatic’ anthropologist the two girls meet on the plane who convinces them to start their trip with him in Jerusalem rather than Tel Aviv.

Kevin – who possesses the ropiest American accent I’ve heard in a long time – has some crazy ideas about secrets religious leaders are keeping about resurrections, demons and gates to hell, but more importantly he has a cute ass (as Sarah notes out loud after she takes a picture), so it seems safe for Sarah and Rachel to ignore what he has to say until things go sideways later on. Rachel finds herself a beau in charming/borderline date-rapey hostel clerk Omar, so no-one seems to really mind that there’s a mental institution full of screaming patients across the street or that there have been several overt warnings for everyone to leave the city.

All that aside, things don’t start going pear-shaped until about halfway into the relatively slim runtime, when the city is put under lockdown after a suspected terrorist attack. As they run through the streets, trying to find a safe route out without becoming separated, I found myself frustrated with Sarah’s inability to move faster than a casual trot. This is presumably due to the limitations of the production’s camera, but it isn’t really an excuse. As such, the contrivances that lead to Sarah’s separation and eventual reunion with her friends feel more forced than usual for this kind of movie, as do her reasons for continuing to wear Glass. (She gets mugged early on: “My prescription glasses were in that bag! Now I have to keep wearing these things.”)

Frustratingly, most of the interesting elements in Jeruzalem are ancillary and mostly happen in the background. The film’s twin concerns are the reanimation of corpses and Sarah’s grieving process over her dead brother; as you might imagine, these threads intertwine in a fairly obvious fashion, but with marginal explanation and not nearly enough exploration of what’s happening outside of the dank cave Sarah and her rapidly-fading friends find themselves in. The film ends with an impressive enough sequence that’s supposedly a culmination of prior events, but it just doesn’t feel earned. As the gimmick wears thin, so did my patience for the film’s dancing around its premise. It might be refreshing to see Israel represented in something other than highly-politicized news footage, but that’s about the only thing that is in Jeruzalem. 

** 2/5

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