JeruZalem (2016)

JZ866434JERUZALEM (No, not a misspelling, they stuck that Z in the middle intentionally, and if you’ve guessed that it was done as a nod to the zombies you might expect in this, give yourself a No-Prize) opens with the obligatory scholarly quote, this time from the Talmud, informing the viewer that there are three gates to Hell: one in the sea, one in the desert, and one in Jerusalem (The emergency exits to Hell, however, are located on either of the side and just behind the forward toilets)

My parents went to Jeruzalem and all I got were these lousy wings...

My parents went to Jeruzalem and all I got were these lousy wings…

From there we’re offered some fake found footage identified as having been filmed in Jerusalem in 1972, where holy men from all faiths have gathered to drink iced tea and kick devil ass, and they’re all out of iced tea. A dead woman is inexplicably chained up being prayed to – until she comes back to life, sprouts leathery, tattered wings and screeches at them. They shoot her in the head, and she falls. Next time, lead with the bullet to the head and we can quickly proceed to the partying.

Is it still a selfie if it's not just you? I'm asking for a friend.

Is it still a selfie if it’s not just you? I’m asking for a friend.

We then segue to the present day, where we see young L.A. resident Sarah Pullman (Danielle Jadelyn, doing a reasonable American accent), about to leave for Tel Aviv with her best friend Rachel Klein (Yael Grobglas, “Jane the Virgin”). Sarah’s father (Howard Rypp) has given his daughter a present of WiFi-enabled “Smart Glass” specs (what, they couldn’t get product placement from Google?) because Sarah is apparently a “nerd” – but don’t worry, she’s one of those movie girl nerds that would get her a photo opp in a magazine. The glasses are prescription, so she can wear them all the time, and we get an expository scene where we see features such as WiFi access, maps, voice commands, Facebook and MySpace access as facial recognition kicks in, and even a 3-D game where we see Sarah fight zombies (ooh, foreshadowing!). We also learn that Sarah’s brother Joel had died a year before. Gee, I wonder if that will come into play later?

"You girls into nude archaeology?"

“You girls into nude archaeology?”

On the plane, the girls meet archaeological student Kevin (Yon Tumarkin), who somehow convinces them to forget about partying in Tel Aviv and joining him for a few days in the Holy City as Yom Kippur approaches (nothing gets the kids going like sleeping in shitty hostels while fighting through crowds of wailing worshippers). A Muslim hostel proprietor, Omar (Tom Graziani), acts as their guide to Jerusalem’s nightlife, and Sarah’s regular glasses are stolen by a young purse snatcher, requiring her to wear the Smart Glasses constantly, except for brief times when others try them on or when she sets them aside during a brief sex scene (we’re privy to seeing her father texting her to be careful and reminding her that she’s his good little girl, while also seeing her ride Kevin. Sorry, Dad, but at least she didn’t accidentally post a video of it on Facebook).

Top Tip: When a woman's about to go down on you, don't get distracted with all the features of her hi-tech glasses

Top Tip: When a woman’s about to go down on you, don’t get distracted with all the features of her hi-tech glasses

At the Western Wall, Sarah is encouraged to write a wish and stick it in the cracks of the wall; her wish is to have her brother brought back from the dead, coupled with calling God an “asshole”. Naughty girl; don’t you know you’re on his home turf? Immediately, we begin seeing signs around jerusalem, signs that quickly agitate Kevin to the point where he is institutionalised in a local asylum, the doctors believing he is suffering from Jerusalem Syndrome, an apparently-real psychosis that overcomes some who visit holy places and are overcome.

Don't make eye contact with the locals, Rachel...

Don’t make eye contact with the locals, Rachel…

But that evening, the shit hits the fan, as explosion occur throughout the city, a quarantine is thrown around it, winged demons and zombies appear, and a local lunatic who believes himself to be King David (Itsko Yampulski) happily informs them that he has seen this before (presumably alluding to the footage at the beginning of the film) and don’t worry, it’s probably just the Apocalypse. Now Sarah needs to find and free Kevin, and get him, Kevin, Omar, Omar’s father and a pair of Israeli soldiers out of the Holy City.

This will end well...

This will end well…

JERUZALEM had the potential to do something different with the horror and the found footage genre; it had an intentionally religious origin, accentuated by the novel location (it does serve the city well, giving you a feel of authenticity). And while it undoubtedly wants us to treat this like a zombie movie, complete with the expected tropes about what happens to people who get scratched or bitten by them, they’re more akin to the demons of QUARANTINE or DEMONS (we also get glimpses of Godzilla-sized demons stomping around the city). The use of the Smart Glasses is also a better medium than the obligatory camcorder, both because it provides exposition and an excuse for why the protagonist would still be filming in the midst of all the chaos.

No, nothing wrong here

No, nothing wrong here

But JERUZALEM’s faults outweigh its strengths. The movie is more than halfway in before any action gets going. The characters are shrill and annoying (the filmmakers, Yoav and Doron Paz, wrote as well as directed and produced this; let this be a lesson: just because you can direct and produce doesn’t mean you can also write). The action is typically jump cuts and chaotic shots, so you never get to see much. And the potential for political and religious conflict arising from the events is barely explored.

JERUZALEM is available for streaming and on DVD, and the trailer is below.

  • Deggsy’s Summary
  • Director: Yoav and Doron Paz (also writers)
  • Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
  • Zombie Mayhem: 2 out of 5 brains

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