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The Golem Main

The Golem Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Dread

The Golem Large

Directed by Doron Paz and Yoav Paz
Written by Ariel Cohen
2018, 95 Minutes, Not Rated
Release on February 5th, 2019

Starring:
Hani Furstenberg as Hanna
Ishai Golan as Benjamin

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Review:

I don’t think I’m the only one that finds Jewish mythology to be fascinating in many ways, none more so than the story of the golem. In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being that is magically created entirely from inanimate matter (usually clay or mud). The tale of the golem is most easily translated in the modern day to Frankenstein. It’s an ageless tale with the theme of hubris and that old standby: “Be careful what you wish for”.

This version of the story comes to us from the skilled and signature hands of the Paz Brothers (Jeruzalem). The year is 1673, and the setting is an isolated Jewish village in Lithuania. Hanna (Hani Furstenberg; The Loneliest Planet) and Benjamin (Ishai Golan) are a young, married couple whose son, Joseph, died tragically seven years before. Benjamin is a pious man who studies the mystical secrets of the Kabbalah while secretly smuggling the teachings to Hanna (who is forbidden the knowledge). That’s not her only secret; she’s also keeping herself from getting pregnant again to avoid the possible pain of losing another child. They’re in love but not on the same page. When the plague breaks out nearby, the Gentiles come calling, blaming the Jews and their spells for their misfortune. Violence and prejudice lead to death, and Hanna steps up to suggest that a golem be created for protection. When she’s rebuffed by the men, she takes matters into her own hands. The golem, however, knows her weakness and takes the form of a small boy. She’s soon attached to and protective of it, leading to the inevitable horror and bloodshed that comes when you play God.

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The Golem is first and foremost a period piece and works wonderfully in that regard. The costumes, location, set design, and hair/makeup are spot-on. The entire look of the film is rugged and a little harsh. It’s an effective contrast with Hanna’s lovely red hair and natural beauty. She’s meant to stand out in every way. She’s clearly something elevated from the rest of her people, and the way she is viewed by the population backs that up. Many believe that Benjamin should move on and find a woman who can give him a child; Hanna’s opinion on that (or anything else, really) is never considered.

It’s not a subtle film. The parallels between Hanna’s lost child and the creation of the golem are as subdued as a hammer to the head. The role of women in their society (and their true power) is like a stack of rocks ejected from the side of your lawnmower at your front bay window. The all-consuming danger of revenge in the guise of protection is a lesson that runs throughout like a flashing neon sign screaming out “Nude Shiksa Inside!!” While that can sometimes be a negative criticism in some films, it’s not jarring here at all. The Golem is, after all, essentially a fable with the flavor of quality ethnic horror. And it works. Subtlety in horror is highly overrated.

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Make no mistake about it, this is a horror film. There’s enough evisceration and dismemberment to satisfy hardened gorehounds. Heads explode aplenty. The boy golem is an evil little fucker with dead eyes that go from black to might-as-well-be when emotional manipulation is required. He’s seriously creepy. What is a bit jarring, however, are two or three instances of less-than-stellar CGI on some of the gore. So much of the SFX are practical that it sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it is definitely noticeable.

Steeped in religious symbolism and social punch, The Golem is a movie that has something to say and a particularly potent way of saying it. Well-paced and smart, it doesn’t pull any punches even if it doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before. This is an execution film, as in I’ll take execution and commitment to the story and theme over subtlety and originality that leads to confusion that appears as half-baked art any day of the week.

That was subtle, right? No?

The Golem 07 The Golem 08

Grades:

Movie: Fourstars The Golem Small
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About The Author
Stuart Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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