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Review: Jeruzalem – “Large doses of invention and scares”

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jeruzalem

Jeruzalem is written and directed by The PAZ brothers. The siblings, Doron and Yoav, have a background in Israeli TV and their first feature, Jeruzalem, stars Yael GrobglasYael Grobglas – who plays Natalie on E4’s Jane the Virgin.

In Jeruzalem two rich girls on holiday get more than just the sun and selfies they had bargained for when they visit the biblical berg. Following a “meet cute” with Kevin (Yon Tumarkin), a dude on the plane, Sarah (Danielle Jadelyn) and Rachel (Yael Grobglas) settle in to alternately chill and smoke at their hotel, and drink and party in the city itself.

Sarah is still damaged from the death of her brother in an accident a year ago, and eager to use the break to take her mind off things. Her free-spirited and relentlessly positive best friend Rachel encourages Sarah to let her hair down and get with Kevin, but they may have been better off steering well clear.

Kevin is an anthropology student who recognises that strange events in the city and the increasingly erratic behaviours of its denizens support an apocalypse theory that he is studying. As the group investigate, one of them is whisked off to an asylum, and when all Hell LITERALLY breaks loose, they must find their buddy and a way out of the crumbling city.

The majority of the film is in a found footage style. That this is from the POV of Sarah’s wearable Google Glass glasses lends the material an immediacy, while also cleverly side-stepping the “Why are they still filming?” question. The monsters Sarah records are “dark angels” starting to emerge from one of three gates to Hell said to be on the world. They are a sort of cross between zombies and the demonically possessed, with horribly enlarged eyes and intimidatingly huge fold-out wings.

The monsters and the scares provide some bravura moments, with the first wings reveal, and a shot of a giant monster’s head bobbing up and down above the buildings as it stalks the streets being particularly memorable, and a smart sequence involving a camera’s face recognition finding terrifying faces in the dark being very well implemented.

Our leads struggle to deliver some particularly clunky dialogue at times, while Sarah’s near-constant falling down and hitting her head – causing the headset to glitch – gets old quickly.

With none of the cast making much of an impression, it is Israel itself that steps up to steal the spotlight. The holy city is a fresh environment for a horror film, and here it is presented as exotic, beautiful and dangerous. The narrow streets and milling crowds make for a satisfying claustrophobia; while the cobbles, underground chambers and apocalypse theories add a layer of history and intrigue unrepeatable elsewhere.

Jeruzalem is like an apocalyptic Israeli Cloverfield, a straight-to-video Godzilla meets low-budget World War Z, with large doses of invention and scares offsetting some of the acting and lack-of-an-actual-ending issues.

3-out-of-5

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