Distributor: Solo Media/Matchbox Films
BBFC Classification: 15
Director: The Paz Brothers
Starring: Yael Grobglas, Yen Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn, Tom Graziani
JeruZalem is an interesting and eclectic mix of religion and zombie/monster horror shot in the found footage style. This style tends to spark apathy in many viewers of the horror genre but add in that it is shot through the perspective of smart glasses and I can hear the collective eye roll of horror fans worldwide. Hold that eye roll at least for a bit because directors Doron and Yoav Paz have managed to capture something unique with this one. Of course there is some shaky camera syndrome and pacing issues, specially in the third act, but overall this is an innovative and well-crafted movie. Shooting in the Holy City is notoriously difficult, if not impossible, so many scenes in Holy spots were shot guerrilla style with a small crew. Add this fact in with some of the CGI parts and we are left with a new twist on zombies and the apocalypse.
Our story opens with archival footage of two priests trying to perform an exorcism on someone that has risen from the dead. Realizing the rite is not working they shoot the risen dead in the head but not before we get a glimpse of the wings and what a fully turned zombie will look like. So, flying zombie-like dark angels – an interesting addition to the zombie genre.
Fast forward to present day, our tale resumes with Sara (Danielle Jadelyn) getting a pair of smart glasses for an upcoming trip to the Holy Land. Joining Sara for the trip is her best friend Rachel (Yael Grobglas). Our two intrepid travelers meet Kevin, an anthropologist, on the airplane to Tel Aviv. Kevin has been traveling all over the world and studying cultures that have angels as a part of their heritage and mythology. He talks to Sara on the plane about dark angels rising from the dead. Paraphrasing, in Israel they are golem and in the United States they are zombies, so the stage is set for the movie; he is hunting for the existence of dark angel flying zombies, on what we learn later is Yom Kippur, an important day in the Jewish calendar.
Kevin convinces the two girls to accompany him to Jerusalem and, with Sarah being quite smitten, they agree and head to the city. There they meet Omar (Tom Graziani), the son of the hostel owner and our group is complete. After a tour through a nightclub we cut to Kevin standing by a window, listening to some strange noises that woke him. Puzzled but not concerned, the group of four head out the next morning to continue with siteseeing. They end at King Solomon’s Quarry and Kevin sees some cave paintings that suddenly cause him to freak out and he runs out claiming he needs to visit the office to look at plans of the city. He comes back to Sara and Rachel’s room ranting and raving about having to leave. Omar and his father show up and escort Kevin to the authorities which in turn lock up Kevin in the local asylum. Omar provides the insight that sometimes this happens in the Holy City, people become so overwhelmed and go a little crazy. A couple of days and he will be fine, Omar assures the girls. At this point in our story we have progressed through acts one and two with a solid plot and well-written dialogue. The found footage aspect has not been distracting or obtrusive with the narrative. The acting has been fantastic to this point, flowing without being stilted and awkward.
We kick off the remaining parts of the movie with a plane flying overhead and bombing a building. Rachel and Sarah rush to find Omar and hook up with them in front of the TV in the hostel main room. News reports are sketchy but soon two soldiers show up and announce that they are closing the city. They all leave the hostel and head to the nearest gate. On their way they pass the asylum where Kevin is kept and Sara insists that they find Kevin. The soldiers give her three minutes and they all go into the asylum. Unable to quickly locate Kevin the soldiers leave but Sara continues the hunt. She finds the local crazy man called King David and he tells them the apocalypse is coming and Sara realizes this is the boy from the opening archival footage. Sara battles some monsters, finds Kevin and the two of them hook up with Omar and Rachael at the gate. The gate is already closed and the four look for another way out. In this action sequence we are also treated to a large creature strolling through the city and making mayhem. We never get a full look at this beast but we get enough to know that he is not a good guy. Omar’s father confesses he knows a way out through the tunnels in the city. On their way they stumble into a church, pick up a young priest and come face to face with one of the dark angels where Rachel is scratched unbeknownst to anyone. Our story is still moving forward and the acting remains well-delivered, and some shaky cam running scenes have crept in but nothing too atrocious.
As our group enters the tunnels, Rachel starts vomiting and Sara notices the skin on her back is drastically changing. Kevin also notices but since Sara saved Kevin he will not say anything. Here is my only real niggle of the film – shaky cam and Sara’s near constant screaming and crying are starting to detract from the movie. The lighting is also sub par in my humble opinion. One has to squint at times to see what is going on. That may be the point of the Paz Brothers’ direction but it seriously causes problems with viewing the movie and becomes off-putting. This underground scene just went on a bit too long for my personal taste and the whole running underground part really didn’t add much to the story. Yes, it does provide some additional interactions and other bits and bobs and does set up the final scene but, to me, it could have been accomplished in other parts of the third act. Maybe it is just me with prolonged chase scenes; the only real niggle I had with Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween was the length of the chase scene at the end. Sometimes this technique seems like an unnecessary time filler. Throw in found footage and these final running scenes are filled with odd camera angles and, in the case of this movie, too much screaming and crying, making me wish the Paz Brothers would have handled it another way. Not to spoil anything but the ending shot was brilliant and nearly redeemed the previous 15 minutes of annoyance.
In the end we are left with a well crafted found footage film and a new and interesting take on the zombie genre. Everyone jokes about the zombie apocalypse and will the zombies run or will they be the traditional walker type, and there are films and stories on either side of the fence, but flying? How are the survivors supposed to deal with dark angel flying intelligent zombies? This is a game changer in that debate for sure. Daryl from The Walking Dead riding his motorcycle with a crossbow may not fare well with this new breed of flying zombie and large creatures laying waste to the human population. Give this one a chance and don’t dismiss it as out of hand because of the found footage or the seemingly outrageous flying zombies. It’s a solid story and told very well by the Paz Brothers, it is well-acted and, for the most part, the shooting and cinematography is very good. This is the most creative and innovative found footage film I have seen this year. I really enjoyed this one and if you give it a chance I think you might too.
UK Release Date: 28th March 2016 (Digital)/4th April 2016 (DVD)