Doran and Yoav Paz stepped onto the horror scene with their 2015 Israeli horror film, Jeruzalem. Jerusalem is one of the most historic cities in the world and finally having the brilliance to set a zombie-horror flick there was truly ingenious (even if World War Z made the concept feel unoriginal). The film garnered middling reviews but, more importantly, made a name for the duo. After proving themselves as capable filmmakers they were handed a larger budget and decided to follow it up with The Golem.
The Golem tells of a young woman named Hanna (Hani Furstenberg) who, with her husband Benjamin (Ishai Golan), are part of a small and isolated Jewish community. When a plague, as well as some unwelcome visitors, threaten their way of life, Hanna decides to conjure something evil from Jewish lore, regardless of what the collateral damage may be.
If there is one sentence to highlight my feelings on the flick, it’s the following: The Golem is an extremely well-made film that puts its effort into nearly every facet of moviemaking other than horror. The picture put all of its money on the screen (as it should) and made a world that was utterly convincing, but lacked even the smallest amount of scares to brand it horror. Doran and Yoav Paz are great directors and surely have a future, I’m just not sure if this is their genre.
The Golem is no doubt a passion project for The Paz Brothers. The Israeli born siblings stuck to their Judaic roots and brought the generic religious evils away from Catholicism and Christianity to a new and refreshing take. Full disclosure; I am a Jew and so the (little) Jewish elements in the film may resonate, or rather familiar themselves, with me more than those of other beliefs. As history has shown, the Jews have been a peaceful society with a tragic history, so setting a horror film where they are the victims seemed disrespectful, till they finally contest and it becomes a bit of hopeful-fiction for a traditionally oppressed people.
Also See: Blood on My Sofa: Let’s Talk Terrifier
The production design (a sadly overlooked aspect of filmmaking by many critics) was hard to ignore. Never did I feel like I was watching a low-budget horror flick; the small Jewish village felt exactly as a small Jewish village should.
The script was satisfactory and the acting above-par. I have nothing to condemn, but simultaneously have little to praise. The dialogue never took me out of the story nor did the acting ever make me suspend disbelief. The gore was a little jarring with the use of CGI rather than practical effects, but in this day and age, it may actually be cheaper to just use technology.
Shooting a film to make it look like a real movie is something that numerous low-budget horror films seem to have trouble with. Not only is the quality of the camera important, but one must know how to shoot it and what to shoot it at. The film was shot very well but since the scares were so few, I often felt like I was watching a period drama rather than a genre film. Horror pictures so often care so much about the terror and the blood that they forget that they can use other tactics to heighten their film; this is not something The Paz Brothers forgot.
A horror film can be shocking (Paranormal Activity), eerie (The Shining), or just plain old scary (The Excorcist). The one thing these films (and all successful horror pictures) have in common is that at some point they stick to the genre’s one rule: horror. The Golem was not scary, not even for a second, and that dramatically hurt what could have been an incredibly original and well-directed genre flick.
The film was slow burn; not boring, but surely slow. If a feature wants to burn slowly it’s more than welcome to, but it better have a pretty great third act (or at minimum, a great climax) to make up for it. The Golem in The Golem was interesting at times (though rarely scary) but never really kept any sort of intrigue for any extended period.
In this world of “if you’re not first your last,” a 5/10 seems extremely harsh. It’s not; it’s exactly in the middle and should be treated as such. Mediocre should not be the dirty word it is when so many films are far less than that. The Golem is a very average film. It will hit the right nerve for some horror fans while missing that of those more casual filmgoers. I do not think The Golem will break through to mainstream audiences, but The Paz Brothers surely will.
The Golem opens February 1 in L.A. and on VOD, DVD, and Blu-Ray on Feb 5.
Wicked Horror Rating: 5/10
Director(s): Doran Paz & Yoav Paz
Writer(s): Ariel Cohen
Stars: Hani Furstenberg, Ishai Golan, Brynie Furstenbrg
Release: February 1 in L.A. and on VOD, DVD, and Blu-Ray Feb 5
Studio/Production Co: Dread Central Presents and Epic Pictures
Language: English & Hebrew
Length: 95 minutes