'Jeruzalem': Film Review

Jeruzalem Still - H  2015
Courtesy of Epic Pictures Group
You'll think twice before booking that vacation trip to the Holy City

Three American tourists discover that the ancient city of Jerusalem is one of the three gates to hell in the Paz Brothers' Israeli found-footage horror film.

With its extensive location footage of Jerusalem, encompassing both the holy city's well-known religious landmarks and its beautiful ancient architecture, Jeruzalem could well drive up Israeli tourism.

On the other hand, there's that whole gate to hell thing.

We learn at the beginning of Doran and Yoav Paz's Israeli found-footage horror film—they're credited as "The Paz Brothers," which seems to be the au courant billing for horror filmmaker siblings—we learn that according to ancient folklore the three gates to hell are the desert, the ocean and the city of Jerusalem. (There are folks in Bayonne, New Jersey who might disagree.)

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The plot concerns American best friends Sarah (Danielle Jadelyn), and fun-loving Rachel (Yael Grobglas), who are traveling to Tel Aviv for a summer vacation. Sarah, still mourning the death of her older brother, has been gifted Google Glass eyewear (the trademarked name is never uttered) by her worried father for the trip.  

On the plane heading overseas, the two women meet Kevin (Yon Tumarkin), a handsome young archaeologist who persuades them to ditch their plans and instead come with him to Jerusalem. That turns out to be not such a good idea, since shortly after their arrival—and several days of hitting the local nightspots, where they meet the friendly Omar (Tom Graziani)--the prophecy of the gate comes true and all hell literally breaks loose. Demonic winged creatures and the occasional giant (the latter barely seen, but whatever) begin terrorizing the frantic populace and transforming them into hideous creatures themselves.

The filmmakers provide a nice twist to the exhausted found-footage genre by coming up with a reasonable explanation of why someone running for her life wouldn't drop the damned camera and stop filming already. Here it's because Sarah's regular glasses are conveniently stolen and so she's forced to wear the geeky headset which just happens to also be prescription eyewear.

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That element adds some novelty to the proceedings, as Sarah is able to take advantage of its built-in GPS when they get lost; employ its facial recognition software to identify people and access their social media profiles; and use its deadly ray gun technology to incinerate her attackers…just kidding about that last one.

Continuing Israeli cinema's recent trend of homegrown genre films, Jeruzalem doesn't exactly break any new stylistic ground. Its use of Israeli performers results in some jarringly bad attempts at American accents, and the film clearly suffers from its low-budget limitations. But the creepy evocativeness of its superbly utilized setting (the filmmakers reportedly shot on the sly, at times claiming to be working on a documentary), and the well-realized creature designs make it a more than respectable horror effort. The haunting final shot alone makes it worth the price of admission.

Production: Epic Pictures Group
Cast: Danielle Jadelyn, Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Tom Graziani
Directors/screenwriters: Doran Paz, Yoav Paz
Producers: Doran Paz, Yoav Paz
Executive producer: Shaked Berenson
Director of photography: Rotem Yaron
Production designer: Sharon Eagle
Editors: Reut Hahn, Doron Paz, Yoav Paz

Not rated, 87 min.