Del reviews ‘JeruZalem’

Image courtesy of Epic Pictures Releasing.

“JeruZalem” Starring Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn and Tom Graziani. Directed by Doran and Yoav Paz as The PAZ Brothers. 94 minutes. Rated R. Netflix.

Del’s take

The found-footage film has found a home in the horror genre, resulting in classics like “REC,” “V/H/S,” “Troll Hunter” and the grandwitchy of ’em all, “The Blair Witch Project.” It also has produced some amazing clunkers. “Paranormal Entity,” “Area 407” and “Apollo 18” come to mind.

Falling somewhere in between is “JeruZalem,” an unlikely pairing of the weighty and the frothy (Judgment Day from the point of view of a teen girl’s spring break getaway). How far it leans toward “Blair Witch” or “Apollo 18” depends on the moviegoer’s charity. While some people loath found footage as a lazy director’s approach to storytelling, others appreciate its clarity of viewpoint.

I find myself bouncing between those two worldviews. I think movies like “Troll Hunter” and “Cloverfield” are masterpieces of the genre. I even liked “Apollo 18” for what it was – a space-based horror flick with limited ambitions. But some movies don’t benefit from the found-footage viewpoint and “JeruZalem” may be one of them. Third person probably would have been a perfectly acceptable storytelling vantage point, and I would not have been distracted by irrelevant technical details such as how the lead character kept her device charged throughout the apocalypse.

I’ll probably be asking myself the same question about my phone after this Korea thing blows up.

In “JeruZalem,” young Sarah Pullman (Jadelyn) is whisked away from her overprotective and Skype-stalking father (Howard Ripp) for a whirlwind tour of the old city of Jerusalem during Yom Kippur. At the Tel Aviv airport they meet good-looking Kevin Reed (Tumarkin), an antiquities student who promises to hook them up with a hostel in the old city and show them the best clubs and sights.

There, they hook up with Omar, the young hostel owner, who takes them out for a night on the old town and stakes his claim to Rachel (Kevin has already targeted Sarah). They dance the night away as dear old dad vainly tries to Skype his daughter because he has been watching the news and hears that something weird is going on in Jerusalem.

The quartet discover the city has been quarantined and Israeli troops are battling – something. They hear gunfire, explosions and screams in the distance, not to mention an unearthly growling and screeching reminiscent of the time you accidentally shut the door on the cat’s tail.

From that point “JeruZalem” becomes an escape caper with the two American girls and their vacation boyfriends struggling to get out of the old city while monstrous events unfold around them.

The story is displayed from a pair of Google Glass-like eyeglasses that belong to Sarah, and yes, I would really like to know how she kept the damn things charged through her ordeal. My new phone will maintain a charge over a couple of days’ heavy usage, but then my phone has a battery the size of a Pop Tart. Sarah’s Glass didn’t – unless the Pop Tart was hidden in her blouse pocket.

The actors carried their parts effectively and there were no gaping holes in the plot, at least none I would try to drive a truck through. Special effects were acceptable and pacing matched the plot well enough. The found-footage viewpoint was not overly distracting, although at times the integration of technologies struck me as too seamless to be believed.

If I had a substantial criticism it would be that the storytelling mechanism trivializes the subject material. Mysterious stars in the sky over Jerusalem portending a religious disaster, sinister film footage smuggled from the Vatican showing the alleged execution of a demon, and air raid sirens that warn of something far worse than incoming Palestinian rockets are all gamely revealed through the lens of a silly pair of internet-capable glasses that display a frowny face and flash “fatal error” when dropped.

It’s all in the name of fun, however, and I confess I enjoyed “JeruZalem” despite its limited flaws.

I would give the movie a B- grade for its interesting premise, decent plot and pacing, and occasional (although sparse) flashes of genuine weirdness. I mark it down for its found-footage viewpoint, which did not serve the story effectively.

I watched it on Netflix.

Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.