It is always interesting to see less featured folklore in horror films. Unlike more conventional myths and horror creatures which have been crafted and re-imagined through a variety of different lenses, some folklore remains relatively unexplored and unfamiliar to wider audiences. This is certainly true for The Golem. While golem (and similar conjurings) have featured in some films, there are still few enough that writer Ariel Cohen and directors Doron and Yoav Paz can focus on weaving a story without needing to reinvent the wheel in terms of their central idea.
During an outbreak of a deadly plague, a mystical woman must save her tight-knit Jewish community from foreign invaders, but the entity she conjures to protect them is a far greater evil.
Unfortunately, there are some pacing issues which prevent the film progressing in a way which feels satisfying. The build up to the conjuring of the Golem is excessively slow and while it isn’t heavy on exposition there feels like a lot of empty space. This means that the inevitable showdown seems to all happen in only a few minutes, before the pace slows yet again. The violence and gore within these moments also suffers from looking a little unconvincing, meaning that some impact is lost.
As already mentioned, the golem is not something regularly featured in horror and therefore, it would be very tempting for the film to over-explain and offer too much information and exposition. Happily, the film deals with it’s subject matter confidently and at no point attempts to offer further explanation for what is happening. This allows for the focus to be moved more to the characters.
The threat within The Golem is less about the central conjuring and far more from other humans. The threat from a father in a neighbouring village forces the village healer to focus all of her attention on curing a young girl, due to accusations of curses. Similarly, grief has a strong grip on Hanna and influences her to act in ways which are detrimental to herself and everyone else. The paranoia and feeling of being trapped in an impossible situation is palpable and speaks to conflicts far larger than can be contained within a small horror blog.
As a result of the focus on the people involved, the strength of the piece is within the way it uses the wider mythology in a far more personal and more directly affecting way. Tying the appearance of the Golem to Hanna’s deceased son adds a great deal to meanings and stakes. In addition, having the violence carried out by something using the image of a young boy is all the more disturbing. Hani Furstenberg gives an understated performance where Hanna’s grief is never far from the surface.
Overall, The Golem is a suitably solid horror film that loses tension through a lack of pacing, but provides a worthy (if short) exploration of human grief and desperation.
Information about how and where you can watch The Golem is available from Epic Pictures.