As plague ravages the 17th century countryside of Lithuania, an isolated Jewish community is faced with destruction when the neighbouring gentile village holds them responsible for the epidemic and threatens to wipe them out.

Frustrated by the menfolk’s lack of resistance, proto-feminist Hanna (Hani Furstenberg), still grieving the death of her son, uses her secret knowledge of the Kaballah to raise to life a Golem, a magical
creature born of mud (who takes the form of her dead son), who will defend the village against it’s attackers.

This forbidden knowledge comes at a price however and, as Hanna forms a maternal bond with her creation, the Golem begins to act on her subconscious desires, murdering anyone who crosses her and threatening the safety of the village.

Eschewing the lo-fi aesthetic of their breakthrough feature, the found-footage demon apocalypse horror JeruZalem, the Paz Brothers put a fresh, if not wholly successful, spin on the Golem of Prague legends
popularised by Gustav Meyink’s 1914 novel and Paul Wegener’s silent films.

Working with a larger budget and using the original stories as a jumping off point in an evocative prologue, their hybrid Western/horror plays more like Mary Shelley’s Fiddler On The Roof and is poorly paced, lacking the immediacy and vibrancy of JeruZalem. Sumptuously shot in hues of gold by cinematographer Rotem Yaron, peasant life looks almost comically photogenic, the only mud in the film coming from the titular Golem’s afterbirth though the reimagining of the hulking Frankenstein’s Monster-like creature of Wegener’s as a mute child is eerily effective.

While it’s tempting to see the film’s insular, warring communities and the genocidal apocalypse the Golem brings to them both as an unwieldy metaphor for the ongoing strife in the Paz Brothers’ native Israel, that reading does neither the film nor the thorny political situation justice and the film works best when addressing the residual guilt and loss Hanna feels for her lost child.

Handsome but hard work, The Golem is a by-the-numbers riff on the classic Faustian folktale that feels a lot longer than it’s 90-odd minutes.

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: The Golem
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