Two American girls on vacation follow a mysterious anthropology student on a trip to Jerusalem. The party is cut short when the trio are caught in the middle of a biblical apocalypse. Trapped between the ancient walls of the holy city, the three travellers must survive long enough to find a way out as the fury of hell is unleashed upon them.
The opening scene from this Israeli film is quite frightening, depicting as it does an eerie, brutal exorcism. What immediately follows, however, is more scary. ‘You are stupid, but beautiful’ intones the sinister proprietor of the hotel at which three young travellers – Rachel (Yael Grobglas) and Sarah (Danielle Jadelyn) (who refer to each other as ‘bitch’) and Kevin (Yon Tumarkin), the young man they immediately pick up, his good looks and charm influencing the girls to change their plans and travel to Jerusalem - are staying. After immediately mocking the superstitious locals, they make the acquaintance of Omar, a confidently westernised regional guide, after discovering their common interest is smoking weed. After all, they’re young – this is what they DO.
The found footage genre takes a lot of criticism, but I think it is an entirely legitimate way of telling a story, if it’s done well. This is so reliant on that style that it plays like a computer game. The technology is impressive, but the plaything of the two girls is banal and irritating in comparison. The big American curses of typical ‘f*** you, a*****e’ and ‘m*****-*****r’ are slung about relentlessly with little regard as to how offensive to the locals such expletives are – but hey, that’s okay, because the locals are portrayed as menial cretins. Much more discerning is the myriad of grinning faces, gurning ‘hi’ to whoever is watching or indulging in some (always unfulfilled) casual sex with others equally vacuous. Waiting for the monsters to come is an excruciating experience.
Apart from the location, which is stunning and nicely shot, this is a trying film. The characters are stultifyingly stupid and irritating: giggling, horny, chirpy, shallow and banal. When the winged CGI-enhanced creatures come, their presence initially mistaken for a terrorist attack, they are seen and heard through a blur of ‘ohmigods’ and interruptive onscreen ‘webcam’ digital distractions – rock music, message alerts and ‘comedy’ adverts. The attacks from the creatures is briefly effective, and things become exciting towards the end, but the dross you have to sit through to get to these moments makes it hardly worth your while.