Set against the backdrop of one of the holiest cities in the world, Jeruzalem follows two American tourists as their dream vacation turns into an unholy nightmare. (EML: 3.5/5)
Review by FF2 Associate Eliana M. Levenson
With a twist on found footage, the Paz brothers’ horror film, Jeruzalem uses the tech of “Smart Glass” as the lens through which the viewer experiences the film.
The film opens with old-fashioned footage of two priests who witness the rising of the dead and the transformation of those dead into winged demon zombies.
Now in the present, “Sarah” (Danielle Jadelyn) receives smart glass as a present from her “Father” (Howard Rypp). She quickly puts them on and starts to mess around with them. The glasses have voice command, facial recognition, and of course, are constantly recording.
Still grieving from her brother’s death, Sarah is leaving for Tel Aviv with her best friend “Rachel” (Yael Grobglas) to party and try and let loose. However, when they meet “Kevin” (Yon Tumarkin), a hot young adventurer, on the plane to Israel, they decide to forgo their original plans and join him at a hostel in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Once in the Old City, the girls are in awe of the maze-like structure of the old buildings, the history and the religious significance of the place. They meet “Omar” (Tom Graziani), a local whose father runs the hostel, and he shows them around the city.
An odd homeless man, “King David” (Itsko Yampulski) tries to warn them all of something evil returning to the city. He insists that they must leave before Yom Kippur, but Omar assures them that the man is just crazy.
Kevin soon reveals that he has also heard these rumors and urges Sarah to leave with him. Sarah tries to convince Rachel that they should head to Tel Aviv—like their original plan—but Rachel refuses to leave.
So, the girls stay put, that is, until all hell breaks loose. Literally. As the quiet streets of the Old City become a warzone full of winged zombies.
While the acting leaves something to be desired, the creativity of the storytelling is evident in every frame of the film. Using Smart Glass allows for a new take on the standard found footage horror and allows for some comedic moments as well. The apps and texting features allow for a juxtaposition of two ideas at one time in a seamless, unobtrusive way.
For instance, texts from Sarah’s father appear on the glass as we watch her hook up with Kevin. However, the Smart Glass also serves practical purposes. First of all, Sarah has use of both of her hands, so she isn’t inhibited in any way as the “cinematographer” and never has to decide between protecting herself or dropping the camera. Secondly, the GPS capabilities help the characters find their way in the maze of the narrow streets of the Old City. And lastly, the facial recognition software allows characters to be easily identified to both other characters and the audience.
Beyond the storytelling method of the film, Jeruzalem also poses an interesting idea on the religious significance of Jerusalem. Opening with a Talmudic quote about the gateways to hell and utilizing the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, as the day of Judgment when Hell opens its gates rather than heaven, the film does not shy away from using the religious history of its location.
© Eliana M. Levenson FF2 Media (1/21/16)Top Photo: The poster for Jeruzalem.
Middle Photo: Sarah and Rachel pose for a selfie, in a rare moment of seeing both Sarah and her Smart Glass.
Bottom Photo: Two soldiers stare down one of the zombies.
Photo Credits: Epic Pictures Group