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    Jeruzalem (2016): Movie Review

    "A surprisingly smart and pleasant found-footage horror film.”

    All hell breaks loose in the Holy City in Jeruzalem, a disaster film from Israeli filmmakers Doran and Yoaz Paz. Breathing fresh air into the found-footage subgenre, the Paz Brothers offers yet another apocalyptic story set in less explored locations in conventional horror films, possibly setting up solid foundations for a good series of terror tales.

    The film opens with a prologue about an ancient Talmud folklore which says that the three gates to hell are the desert, the ocean, and the city of Jerusalem. Then a 1972-footage of an exorcism is shown where priests from different religious sects gather around a woman who has miraculously returned to life but is now possessing what appears to be wings. Fast forward to present time and two best friends from Los Angeles are planning to travel to Tel Aviv for a summer vacation. While for Rachel (Yael Grobglas) the trip is all about having fun, 24-year-old Sarah (Danielle Jadelyn) sees it as a means to cope with the recent death of her older brother. Worried, her father gifted her with a smart glass eyewear for the trip.

    In the airplane, the two BFFs meet Kevin (Yon Tumarkin), a dashing young archaeologist who convinces them to ditch their plans and join him in an excursion to Jerusalem. The two agrees and together with Kevin and Omar (Tom Graziani), a friendly local hotel proprietor they also meet in the Holy City, they hit the local nightspots and make the most of their time. But when Sarah whispers an impossible wish, the prophecy comes true and the gate of hell opens. Immediately, demonic giants and winged creatures appear and begin infecting the frantic populace.

    Jeruzalem is a commendable reinvention of the exhausted and dying found-footage subgenre. Instead of using the usual camcorder, the film employs a smart glass (similar to Google Glass) to tell the story. In most similar features, it seems stupid when people keep recording things even while being chased and slaughtered by monsters, or while attacking the enemies. Here, there is a logical explanation as Sarah’s regular glasses are earlier stolen and her geeky eyewear is fitted with her prescription. The smart glass is an innovative tool here and it is used with superb wit and creativity. It has several functionalities like a built-in GPS which the protags used to find their way around the old city, facial recognition program which instantly links to Facebook and other social media profiles, realistic games, music, and voice-activated commands. In some scenes, we get to finally see Sarah as the glasses are fitted by others. This way, characterization becomes fun and savvy.

    The film also offers an extensive tour around Jerusalem. During the first half, we are taken to many of the city’s prominent religious landmarks with their beautiful ancient architecture and rich history. We get to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall, as well as the less fascinating sites like the marketplaces, back alleys and clubs. Wisely, the movie shows the different faces of Jerusalem, a city uniting its chaotic past and resilient present, and finding unison among different religious groups.

    But once the horror begins, the movie becomes conventional by utilizing dark claustrophobic spaces, creepy noises, ominous shadows, jitteriness, and frenzied filming to give maximum scare. Despite this and the generic twists, the film remains frightening and exciting. It can sustain the same interest as Cloverfield and the jumpiness of World War Z. Plus, the culminating shot is haunting and seething as the monster with the smart glass flies high to watch the destruction of the Old City.

    Tumarkin and Graziani both incorporate playfulness into their good looks, aptly suited to their individual roles. Jadelyn does not get much screen time but she does a superb job with the dialogues and reactions. Grobglas is the real winner here, the on-camera star who stands out as the cheeky party girl.

    Jeruzalem gives a smart twist to found-footage films with its creative use of high-tech smart glass and considerable exploration of the famed city. Its narrative may not be unique but the entire film is certainly far from being forgettable.

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


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