[SPOILER ALERT] JeruZalem [SPOILER ALERT]
It’s day 23 of the Horror Movie Marathon! My eyes are recovering from LASIK surgery, but I am dedicated to this project, so we’ll be soldiering on!
JeruZalem is rated R and is available on Netflix. At the time of our viewing, it has the following online ratings:
Rotten Tomatoes 57% critics, 58% audience
It’s a beautiful day. We both take notes throughout the movie. Afterward, we conduct a simultaneous interview/discussion via Google Docs.
Solee: Okay. Let’s do this quickly so my eyes don’t quit on me halfway through. I have a bunch of notes on this movie!
Mikey: I just want to point out that you just endured my real-life horror movie: somebody sliced up your eyes. (She had lasik surgery)
Solee: Mine, too! I have literally ALL MY LIFE had nightmares about not being able to open my eyes. That first day of recovery was much more traumatic because of that than I had been led to believe. Hopefully it will all be worth it and I will become one of those people who tells other people to “Do it! It’s not that bad!”
Mikey: My fingers are crossed that it will all be wonderful. But to get this done quick, we should talk about the movie!
Solee: So it’s called JeruZalem, with a big red Z in the middle, which is pretty telling.
Mikey: After watching it, I thought about it a bit and decided it’s pretty close to 100% a zombie movie. The only unzombie things are that the ‘zombies’ have wings, there aren’t that many of them (in the end we see there are, but during the course of the movie, the people never have to deal with very many), and they seemed smarter, except for how they’d often just stand back and show off their wings instead of doing anything.
Solee: They certainly felt more vengeful than insatiable. This is what you get if you posit that zombies are a Heaven/Hell thing instead of a “whoops, I whipped up a really bad batch of the flu” thing, I guess.
Mikey: Right, whatever their goal was (world domination perhaps?), they didn’t need to eat people like zombies do, they were just sort of violently going about their agenda.
Solee: Which was what, exactly? I honestly have no idea. I ended this movie with the same level of confusion as [*REC]. I have no idea what the “lesson” of this movie was. Aside from “Get out of Tel Aviv before Yom Kippur!”
Mikey: Yeah, I don’t think there was any explanation of it, but the final shot of them all pouring out of the city kind of felt like a general Destroy All Humans situation. About as detailed a plot as your average alien movie.
Solee: Given that and the behavior of the rest of the zombies, I was SUPER disappointed in the appearance of Sarah’s brother. He didn’t really help them. He didn’t really attack them. He might as well have not shown up at all. Was that just God, biting his thumb at Sarah because of the nasty “wish” she sent him? “Sure, I’ll bring your brother back… but you’re not going to like it….”
Mikey: Probably. It’s interesting since she was already bitten by that point, so she was definitely doomed. But it was saying something, between him and Rachel, that the undead weren’t totally mindless, they still had memories and stuff. She sure lost her mind quick when she changed though: straight into “join the flock” mode. At least she didn’t eat Kevin first.
Solee: Rachel, too. She was controlled enough to take herself out before she hurt Sarah.
Mikey: Yup. Whatever that all means. So we should point out that this is our second first-person perspective movie of the month! Which may also be the second one I’ve ever seen.
Solee: I liked this one better, I think because it wasn’t trying to head-hop like Sympathy, Said the Shark. It was just one girl and her Google Glass, which I think is a hilarious premise and basically established this movie as outdated before it even hit the big screen.
Mikey: Outdated… or prescient!? We might all be wearing those next year! I wonder if a large part of the idea of this movie came out of the facial recognition system. They were just like “Oh, and it recognizes her dead brother!” and wrote a movie around that. Fun gimmick. Kind of annoying, but not actually that bad. I’d say it’s not as bad as the more standard gimmick of found footage: the insanely obnoxious person who refuses to stop filming.
Solee: Agreed. I get a little sea-sick from any found footage movie, but this one was easier to get into than others I’ve seen. I didn’t exactly FORGET about the gimmick, but I could accept it more easily. I know what it’s like to have to wear whatever glasses you can get your hands on in order to see!
Mikey: But not anymore!
Solee: Now I have no glasses to help me see! I just have to be patient and let my eyeballs heal.
Mikey: I have so many notes on this movie, but they’re all assorted little tidbits. Seems like there was a lot going on, and not to spoil the ratings, but I really had fun with this. Just as I think the filmmakers had fun with the idea of the Google Glass.
Solee: I have lots of snippets of notes, too. One bigger topic I want to bring up is “implicit bias”. I first noted it when Sarah couldn’t bring herself to kill her clearly infected and obviously becoming dangerous friend or even tie her up or leave her behind… but she stuck a sword through the Muslim guy’s throat without even thinking about it. A guy who had been with her through the whole escape. I mean, yeah, he popped up out of the darkness, and she was all hyped up on adrenaline, but that’s kinda the point of “implicit bias”. She saw him as instantly dangerous even though he was completely harmless and just as terrified as her.
Mikey: I don’t feel like that’s fair! Like you said, she killed him before she saw him. It wasn’t what he looked like, it was the fact that he popped up out of the darkness. I think she would’ve killed her friend too in that case, she was just lashing out before processing what she was seeing, since she was so scared.
Mikey: BUT it leads into my own personal safety concern I have had for a while: you always say “shoot him already!” the second somebody has a sniffle in a zombie movie! I just know one day you’re going to decapitate me because I get a sore throat.
Solee: Only if we’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. If that’s the case, it’s true. I’m gonna be super sad about it, but the ONLY way to survive with zombies around is to ruthlessly get rid of anyone who has been infected. I’ve learned that from all the zombie movies YOU made me watch.
Solee: Definitely. I’m not done with the implicit bias topic, though. Because I have to admit to my own implicit bias. I’m not at all proud of it, but I was much more suspicious of the muslim family that ran the hotel than anyone else. They did some pretty suspicious stuff, but I was also just waiting for Omar to turn out to be involved in whatever was going down, with his hashish-getting, chest-hair showing, 3rd person-talking self.
Mikey: I would never blame Omar! Mikey says Omar is good. His family did seem a bit creepy, and the fact they’d always be muttering things in languages we didn’t know, in the middle of a horror movie, made you wonder what they were up to.
Solee: Yes, he was good. Not the kind of guy I’d take home on a first day without having a roommate around, but that has nothing to do with his ethnicity and everything to do with the 3rd person references and the lack of personal space. I am ashamed that I was so quick to assume that he and they were going to be evil in some way, though. Tells me I have some biases I wasn’t aware of and which I’d like to work on eradicating.
Mikey: That makes me think of something I really liked about the movie: it was actually made by Israelis, and it prominently features this idea throughout that Catholics, Jews, and Muslims are all in it together in Jerusalem – stuck dealing with the same problems, and because they’re all together, they have learned to be cool with each other in that space. It’s a window into another world, and I felt like I was learning what somebody else’s existence is like there. I really liked Omar and how he represented “just a dude” who was Muslim, instead of any stereotypes (well, any Muslim stereotypes – he was a hound-dog stereotype).
Solee: Yep. That idea of all three religions working together came in early during the Vatican footage when “all three Abrahamic religions” were working together to try to save the woman.
Mikey: A 3-way exorcism! No wonder it didn’t work! Poor confused God(s?).
Solee: That would have been a mess of a trial to find out whether they were to blame for her death! I really did like how that theme of playing and working together followed through all the way to the point when Omar, Kevin and Sarah were each praying in their own language.
Mikey: Clear symbolism! And that’s something with this movie, I was feeling like there was a lot more here than most of what we’ve watched this month. I’m not saying it wasn’t a basic zombie movie and pretty silly, but you could see there were thoughts and ideas behind it, and you can get a lot more out of this movie than just “Aah, real zombies”.
Solee: Ha. I see what you did there.
Mikey: Oh, I went there.
Solee: It was a smart movie. But not to the point of overthinking itself. Which is a fine line to walk in horror. I’m sure the white dresses the girls were wearing for Yom Kippur were symbolic in a lot of ways I don’t completely understand because I’m not a student of theology, but purity and forgiveness come to mind along with the judgement they mentioned.
Mikey: I’m usually looking for smarts and overthinking in the plot, stuff for me to figure out and mysteries to solve. This movie had none of that – it really was just basic running from monsters – but it did have that smartness on a different level entirely, like you are saying.
Solee: And then every so often there would be something ridiculous, like the classic “sound of wings extending.” Which we totally would have missed if we didn’t use closed captioning like old people.
Mikey: Closed captioning often adds fun. I also liked when her Google Glass suffered serious damage to the point where it was launching cat videos at her against her will.
Solee: HERE IS A CAT WEARING A BURRITO HAT. WATCH IT. WAAAATCH IT.
That Google Glass was pretty high level. It could face recognize ANYONE, not just people from her social media network. And it could hear not just her voice and breathing, but also the blood rushing through her ears at the end.
Mikey: That has frightening privacy implications! The facial recognition, not the blood noise. It also has unlimited recording space, and records everything you look at for eternity. Amazing, and also frightening privacy implications.
Solee: The only thing it doesn’t do…? Night vision. Which was unfortunate for Sarah.
Mikey: I was waiting for the night vision to come out for a long time. I mean, come on, how can you do found footage with no night vision? But they did.
Solee: Maybe it was disabled during one of the 😦 FATAL ERROR.
Mikey: Yes, every time she fell down or smacked her face, it would frown at her and say FATAL ERROR. In the end, I’m very disappointed the movie didn’t end as I predicted it would: “:( FATAL ERROR”
Solee: Huge missed opportunity. Yuuuge.
Mikey: I forgot to fast-forward for the traditional Funny Part After The Credits. If they were smart, they would’ve added it there – the glasses falling from her now-airborne face, way way down, to crash on the ground with a FATAL ERROR :(.
Solee: Oh, snap. That would have been perfect. The Google glasses on the soaring demon made me think of the go-pro vids I’ve seen where squirrels have taken go-pros and run up trees. Just another clever pairing of recording technology and blissfully unaware wildlife!
Mikey: Yep. I kept being bothered that she was flapping her wings all the way around in front of her face, but I think about that eagle footage and you do see things a little more than you’d expect, so maybe that’s super ultra 100% real.
Solee: Mega-totally-true. Ready to rate? Did we touch on most of your notes?
Mikey: Not at all, but that’s okay! Except to note that there’s some serious Cloverfield going on in this movie. And the characters don’t seem nearly concerned enough about it.
My final impression of this movie is that is a simple, pretty lame, movie, made by talented and capable people. They were slumming. Where it ends up is something of a strange dichotomy. But overall, it was both pretty compelling (with all the cultural stuff), and full of fun moments (with the Google Glass and sometimes the monsters, though they sometimes were kind of stupid). I don’t want to rate it too high, but that’s mostly because I know other people have rated it very low and I don’t want to feel like a sucker. The truth is I kind of maybe loved it. I’m gonna go for a 4! Fun movie, all the way down. But not high art.
Solee: Agreed. The acting was decent. The directing was well done. The plot was simple, but there were nuances that allow for discussion and ongoing thought after the credits roll. I liked that it was a twist on the normal zombie monster. It was a movie I think a lot of people could enjoy watching, provided they like horror and can stomach a found footage flick. I am also giving it a 4, and I don’t care that it makes me look like a sucker. I’ve disagreed with the ratings on most of the movies this month. And for once it’s fun to think something is BETTER than everyone says.
Mikey: Good on you! Speaking of credits, I did go back and check and there is no Funny Part After The Credits. Sad.
Solee: Sad indeed. What are you thinking for tomorrow?
Mikey: I was working on some data regarding what we’ve watched this month, and what I’m finding a shortage of so far is… well, Sci-Fi is something we’ve only hit once (I tagged Shadow Puppets as sci-fi). We haven’t seen one of those dumb SyFy original monster movies or similar…
Solee: Sounds like we have a movie with a tiger-tarantula-gorilla hybrid in our future!
Mikey: TARANTIGERILLA IS ALREADY OUT!?!?
Solee: You wish. Maybe we can see Behemoth, though.
Mikey: See you there!
*If you have comments to leave specifically for Mikey, you can see this same interview/discussion posted here, on his website.