The 2015 horror film guaranteed to make you question the future of filmmaking. JeruZalem (with a Z so it is edgy) fails on just about every level possible.
Does the movie start off horrible? Well, no, actually. The opening segment actually works on an interesting level. Representatives from the three Abrahamic religions work to fight a demon that broke out of hell in Jerusalem in 1972. Interesting stuff—but then the movie jumps to 2015.
Instead of continuing with the idea of following religious officials facing evil, the film opts to follow two idiotic American friends Rachel and Sarah. The first great sin of the film is that it is revealed to be a found footage film. Sarah’s glasses record everything she does. As my wife and I realized the film was found footage, we both audibly groaned. I am not 100% against found footage as a mechanism of horror narratives, but it is getting old. The good part about JeruZalem’s use of glasses is that the Paz Brothers (directors) don’t have to explain why the characters are carrying a camera. The bad part is that the glasses also look up social media info, music, photos, GPS, and a bunch of other stuff. The viewer is constantly reminded of the glasses’ presence.
The role of the camera in film is something that I have become increasingly aware of in recent years. I know we are always looking through the camera, but when a film brings such strict attention to its presence, my disbelief falters. The glasses act as someone whispering “hey this is a movie” in your ear the entire time.
I can appreciate that not every viewer is as sensitive as I am to the camera. However, JeruZalem seems to strive to disappoint on more levels. I will start with the characters. Sarah and Rachel are neither likable nor relatable. There is almost no attempt to develop either before introducing Kevin, who is perhaps the least likable person in a horror film in recent years: a supposed anthropologist bro who talks Sarah and Rachel to joining him Jerusalem. Why the two agree is beyond me. At their hostel (which is at once the nicest hostel in existence yet somehow beneath Sarah and Rachel, according to them) they meet Omar, a young charmer and local. Nothing about any of these characters is interesting. You could switch around who was who and not notice.
Worse yet, the dialogue in the film is painful to hear. Aside from bad actors giving bad lines, the viewer is subjected to a nearly endless assault of talking. Sarah never shuts up. Instead of acting, the Paz Brothers appear to have directed everyone to simply state how they feel. To get an accurate count I would have to rewatch the film (something I will not do), but I estimate there is never a span of more than 15 seconds without dialogue in the film. I attribute this partly to the limitations of found footage as a whole, but the film goes too far. Are we as the viewer supposed to relate to these characters? That is not a rhetorical question. I genuinely believe the Paz Brothers had such little faith in their creation that they thought having characters constantly announce fear would somehow trick audiences into agreeing.
The greatest sin of the film is that it is not scary. It isn’t even disturbing or unsettling. As a viewer, you will be bored or at best mildly amused. The demon/zombie creatures look terrible, appear way too late in the film, and don’t really do anything. In the distance, the viewer sees a giant destroying the city, but it is about as convincing as a kid’s movie. The film squanders its location and the religious anxieties surrounding the plot. The religious discussion in the film at the start is abandoned until the last moments, which is poorly and perhaps offensively done. Overall, an absolute waste. 2/10