Reviewing two zombie movies in a row seems excessive, but hear me out. “JeruZalem” is another in a long line of Israeli genre flicks to come out in the past few years. This one, especially, has gotten a moderate amount of buzz, so why not watch it? Well, because it’s terrible. Even the good parts end up being terrible, because the terrible parts overcrowded them.
Starting in 1972, two priests film an exorcism in Jerusalem. The woman who’s possessed is killed, and we fast forward to the present where Americans Sarah (Danielle Jadelyn, “The Conductor”) and Rachel (Yael Grobglas, “An Interview with God”) take a trip to Tel Aviv, stopping first in Jerusalem. They meet archaeology student Kevin (Yon Tumarkin, “Rock Ba-Casba”) who warns them of a coming judgment day. It’s not long before they’re caught right in the middle of it.
Let’s start with the worst part of the movie: the characters. They aren’t characters so much as ideologues. There’s a strange thematic trend in “JeruZalem” to paint Palestinians and Muslims as devilish. In fact, it’s so evident that it feels, at points, like propaganda. The movie doesn’t treat its central Jewish characters any better though. Arguably, that’s more due to them being women than Jews, but the fact remains.
What is worth exploring is the setting. Jerusalem is well-utilized in the movie. So well utilized that it reveals how truly awful everything else is. The hostel-keeper Omar (Tom Graziani, “A Place in Heaven”) often holds court about the city’s history and its layout. These early moments in the movie prove to be the most interesting, and once they’re gone, there’s little fun to latch onto.
The city has far more character than the characters themselves. One should give directors Doron and Yoav Paz for exploring their setting. But every aspect of a movie should raise another up in some way. “JeruZalem” does not do that. The best parts emphasize the worst, and the worst emphasize how bad it all truly is. Even the setting falls prey to this in the end. It takes only minutes for Jerusalem to turn into just another apocalyptic landscape.
“JeruZalem” is simply not worth watching. What is redeeming about it ends up showing what’s not redeeming about it. Thus, as a viewer, one gets the sense that the movie went off-the-rails somewhere in production. There are multiple places where it feels like it could have worked, but it never does. Rampant with cliches, and infused with strange cultural propaganda, taking a trip to “JeruZalem” is a waste of your time.