The Golem (2018) [Screamfest LA 2018]

In a small village where residents all know each other, a woman calls to life a creature to help set some things right, As that being turns out to possibly be more evil than she thought it would be, it may come down to her to figure things out.

The Golem is directed by Doron and Yoav Paz and written by Ariel Cohen, a team who were in part the minds behind Jeruzalem (the Paz Brothers). Here the brothers team up with Cohen to create a period piece film that is mostly character development for the majority of its run time. For the first 20 minutes, the character development and story set-up is done well and in details, giving the viewer characters they can care about and want to watch. Then, it keeps going and going and going for about another hald hour before the film gets really going at the 49 minutes mark or so. This first part’s world setting is interesting byt eventually loses interest. While the writing and directing are well done, things ultimately take too long and become a beautiful mind-numbing experience for the viewer. Once the creature finally shows up, the pace picks up a bit and some mayhem happens, leading to story into its somewhat satisfying ending. The last part of the film gets fun with some interesting blood and gore but after about 2/3 of the film being more of a family drama, the horror either feels out of place or too little too late, giving the film a story balance that feels off or reverse.

While the film gets lost in transit, the cast does great work with their parts, all of them giving subdued, nuanced performances showing their grasp of their craft and the quality of the direction. Lead actress Hani Furstenberg plays her character of Hanna with care and a natural ability to communicate emotions in a way that looks and feels genuine. During the overly long intro, first 2/3s, she keeps the viewer connected and involved as best she can, giving a performance that sells the viewer on watching further and until the end. Her performance sells the entire film and helps it along greatly. Working with her are a fairly small main cast including Brynie Furstenberg, Ishai Golan, Adi Kvetner, Lenny Ravich, and Alex Tritenko who create a strong ensemble to support the lead and the story through its ups and downs.

The strongest point of The Golem are the visuals created by cinematographer Rotem Yaron. The images are carefully crafted, giving each scenes the right ration of light to dark, the right framing, creating an intimate, believable setting for the period piece unfolding in front of the lens. Being that The Golem is a set in the past, the decors and costumes are fantastically detailed and researched, including a stunning plague doctor mask, setting the tone for the characters and story and creating an immersive world for the viewer.

The Golem has good ideas and a good third act with strong performance and great cinematography and attention to details. Unfortunately, the first part lingers on too long and ends up testing the viewer’s patience and care for the characters before the creature shows up and things take a turn for the more interesting. The village drama itself is somewhat interesting, but not great as it drags and goes on too long. The film suffers from it and has a hard time recovering once the action kicks in. The last third is worth a watch for its mayhem and bloodshed. The film’s undertones and on-going themes are interesting but they get lost in the shuttle.