It’s the end of the world as we know it as the gates of Hell open up in Jerusalem leaving two vacationing American girls trapped and struggling to survive in the latest “found footage” horror film, JeruZalem. While the film isn’t particularly frightening, the point-of-view footage comes courtesy of one of the latest technological advances that may be unfamiliar to non-early adapters. The smart glasses make the frequently used “found footage” gimmick more believable while adding a dimension to the storytelling that surpasses other films in the genre.
The story is fairly simple; Rachel (Yael Grobglas; Jane the Virgin, Reign) and her friend Sarah (relative newcomer Danielle Jadelyn) travel to Israel on vacation, meet a guy on the plane, and follow him to Jerusalem where Hell literally breaks loose. The city is then quarantined and Rachel and her friends struggle to find a way out. It borrows from religious mythology, but the tone of the film isn’t overtly religious. It is nearly an unimpressive generic demon/zombie film, but the smart glasses take it to an impressive new height.
Allegedly comparable to the new Google Glass, Rachel’s generic smart glasses have a range of functions that seamlessly slip in back story, exposition, and character identification as well as add to the creepy atmosphere when they malfunction. They can play music, access GPS, browse the internet (including popular sites like Facebook and Wikipedia), make international calls through Skype, and record everything for future audiences to enjoy. This film could probably work as an ad for smart eyewear technology; which had me interested despite the likely expensive cost and need for voice commands (which I have little interest).
The use of smart glasses is great for this genre of horror and is close to perfect for the mobility required. Though there are some parts of the story that seem forced to make the gimmick work; mainly that Rachel needs glasses and her prescription glasses get stolen soon after she arrives in Jerusalem forcing her to continue using the smart glasses. But, that minor issue aside, it is an impressive use of the technology and really aided in the credibility of the film. There was only one other film that I’ve seen use a similar gimmick- the first segment of the first V/H/S used a simple hidden camera in a cheap pair of glasses and actually had a comparable ending of sorts.
Shifting gears, the costume design of the demons is pretty good; not overly terrifying most of the time, but still fairly disturbing. JeruZalem also benefits from being filmed in the holy city Jerusalem. While it is not a city to which I have visited, nor have I wanted to visit, it appears awe-inspiring on screen through Rachel’s eyes. Directing brothers Doron and Yoav Paz used a custom-made camera mount to film some of the city’s ancient architecture, religious landmarks, and historical sites. The scenery coupled with the background information display on the smart glasses at times makes for a fascinating quasi-travel documentary.
Opens Theatrically January 22.