JeruZalem Film Review

   Since the hacylon days of religious horror, in which The Exorcist became one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, there has been a slow and steady decline in sacred themes found within the darkest corners of cinema.

   As horror, by its very nature, tackles the contemporary fears of the society it has been created in, movie-makers have begun to modernise their work with new themes and stylistic innovations to reflect a world that is becoming increasingly secular and increasingly technologically advanced. Take, for example, last year's Unfriended - a smart and slick movie which used the omnipresence of social media and internet connectivity as both the source of anxiety within the film and, ultimately, as the framework for its formal aesthetics.

   JeruZalem, the latest feature from the Paz brothers, however, seems to have its cake whilst eating it too. This is an Israeli-set biblical horror but, intriguingly, one which utilises modern technology to tell a tale seeped in pre-modern dread. Rachel (Danielle Jadelyn), a young American women who records her activities with a Google Glass-esque piece of wearable technology, becomes our first-person guide to the ultimate "holiday gone wrong"; everything around Rachel - and her travel companions -  Sarah (Yael Groblas) and  Kevin (Yon Tumarkin) - slowly escalates into spasms of orgiastic terror.

    The movie takes a quote from the book of Jeremiah as its starting point: "There are three gates to hell. One in the dessert, one in the ocean, and one in Jerusalem..." Unfortunately, for our protagonists the latter gate seems to have opened to coincide their trip to Israel. Further adding to the clear patchwork of influences on display here, the sight of three young Americans finding themselves in too deep in a world of trepidation they can barely comprehend recalls a spate of horror staples found in the likes of Eli Roth's Hostel and dating all the way back to Deliverance.

   After a patient, and rewarding, set-up - in which we get to know and even empathise with our wide-eyed stars as they discover the sight and sounds of an ancient holy city - the Paz brothers literally let all hell loose. Shot guerilla-style on location in Jerusalem (as inspired, according to the directors, by Randy Moore's gleefully demented Disney-set  Escape From Tomorrow ), the second half of JeruZalem sees the ingenues flee from an array of CGI monsters, inspired by golems and zombies, in a series of first-person perspective action set pieces recalling Cloverfield and, more pertinently, video games such as Call of Duty and Half-Life. That Rachel is able to seek disconnect from her actions as, from behind a screen, she pretends the real life unfolding in front of her is "just a game" is an intelligent piece of social commentary.

   Yet, unfortunately, despite the set-up and biblical premise of the film, there appear to be few, if any, larger proclamations or statements about wider religious themes within JeruZalem (unlike The Exorcist which has inspired generations of evangelical fans due to its apparent faith-based underpinnings). What we get, instead, and probably to the preference of many genre fans, is a series of chase and hide sequences, twists and low budget action scenes. Whilst, on this level, their may not be much in the way of philosophical depth, what is available is a large degree of fun in the reckless abandon with which the Paz Brothers and Yael Groblas, in particular, throw themselves headfirst into the movie. Whilst not flawless, this is a feature which mixes a high degree of originality winningly with established genre tropes and suggests that the Paz Brothers may be directors we should keep our eyes on going forward.

   In summary: JeruZalem is an intriguing curio, particularly for those interested in witnessing a patch-work history of horror in the multitude of influences on display here, or for those who, by studying the first-person perspectives and dominance of modern technology on the narrative, may be interested to see where the genre might head in the future.

JeruZalem is available as an exclusive early digital release available from March 28.
The DVD & Blu-Ray release of the film takes place on April 4.

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