One of the few banes of my sad, angry existence (besides my wife & kids) are found footage films. Unlike some other employees here at Gruesome, I literally despise everything about them. The sub genre stated out with a bang with The Blair Witch Project (1999), and has had a few meager highlights since then, but by and large they stink on ice. So when I was presented with JeruZalem (Their misuse of capital letters, not mine), to watch & review, you can only imagine how unenthusiastic I was. But, to my surprise, JeruZalem comes to us from Israel, a land not exactly well known for its horror films. So I hoped that, at the very least, it might bring something new to the usual found footage tripe I’m sick of watching. And after watching its trailer, I found myself mildly interested in it. So I was kind of excited to sit down and see what all the hoopla is about.
I gotta learn to temper my excitement…
“There are three gates to hell. One in the desert. One in the ocean. And one in Jerusalem”.
After reading that, and a short prologue (which is pretty interesting), JeruZalem begins with Sarah (Danielle Jadelyn) is about to go on vacation to Tel Aviv with her best friend Rachel (Yael Grobglas). Her dad gives her a Google Glass headset for her birthday which’ll come in handy during the trip. While on the plane, the girls meet Kevin (Yon Tumarkin), a exotic anthropology student,and he convinces them that the real fun is in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv. So they decide to take his word for it, and follow him there. Once they arrive, Kevin introduces the girls to his friend Omar (Tom Graziani), and the quartet set out to see the sights during the day, and hitting the clubs by night. But Kevin has a lot on his mind. He thinks he’s discovered a conspiracy by some religious leaders believing that the literal end of days is coming very soon. And if this is so, then the resulting apocalypse will bring forth winged demons that will rip the holy land asunder. And as Kevin suspected, the apocalypse does indeed begin, and the four of them need to find a way out of Jerusalem before they fall prey to the demons wreaking havoc in the streets.
Now all of that sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it? Sadly, writer/directors Doron & Yorov Paz made the decision to save the action for the second half of the film. A full 45 minutes go by before anything substantive happens in JeruZalem, and that’s a long time to wait for those flying demons. All we get for the first 45 minutes is a lot of drinking, dancing & sightseeing. Sarah’s backpack gets stolen early in the film, and her other pair of prescription glasses were in there, so she wears the Google headset for the remainder of the film (It’s a found footage flick, remember?). So the entire film plays out from the viewpoint of the Google Glass headset, and that’s actually kind of interesting for awhile. But since the film takes so long to get going, the novelty wears thin pretty quickly. And I’m positive that Google glass is a lot more fragile than presented here, but if the glasses broke, we wouldn’t have yet another found footage film – would we?
Once the apocalypse begins, things marginally pick up. It’s not exactly made clear what’s happening at first, and that creates a sense of confusion amongst the characters that works well. We’re shown snippets of the flying demons, and even a bit of a Kaiju sized behemoth that’s walking to and fro a few times. It’s reminiscent of the skyscraper sized Devil at the finale of This Is The End (2013), and it might’ve been a cool visual had the brothers Paz had a bigger budget. But they do what they can with it, so we get a few shots of its legs walking back and forth, but nothing more. We don’t even see a lot of the flying demons, but we see more of them than of Demon-zilla. The second half of JeruZalem is filled with scenes of people running all over the place, with Sarah screaming nearly the whole time, but little more than that. Rachel does get scratched by one of the demons at one point, and apparently the scratch is turning her into one of them. This makes absolutely no sense at all, especially since its pointed out repeatedly that the demons are the dead, rising from their graves. It seems that the Paz brothers have studied Lamberto Bava’s Demons (1985) a bit too much, as this is a direct rip off of that film.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I didn’t like JeruZalem very much. It takes a pretty interesting idea, and buries it under a lot of fluff for half it’s length, and then uses the second half to hint, rather than hit the audience full on with its main idea. I suppose the directors made this choice partly because of budgetary constraints, but the film takes so long to get going I’m not accepting that as an excuse. The substitution of Sarah’s screaming nearly non stop for some real scares is nigh unforgivable as well. But JeruZalem does look pretty good, the holy city is indeed very nice to look at. But this isn’t supposed to be a travelogue, it’s supposed to be a horror film, and it pretty much fails as such.
In the end, JeruZalem fails because it takes too long deciding what kind of film it wants to be. Is it a delightful film full of gorgeous scenery, drinking & dancing? Or is it a horror film dramatizing the apocalypse, and the terrors that it’ll bring to mankind? Frankly, it succeeds at being neither. It might creep out those of you who are extremely religious, but I believe in God as much as the next guy, and it did little more than bore me to tears. I’m betting that there’s a fourth gate to hell, and that’d be in any theater that’s playing this mess.
JeruZalem (1.5 / 5)