Stream This? is a feature devoted to exploring and reviewing some of the lesser known and often-times weirder films that can be found on various streaming services. Today, Roy Buckingham examines the 2018 horror film The Golem.
Netflix has become quite the purveyor of original content of late, so I decided to explore a bit and find a find. Discover a unique. Enjoy a joy. While scrolling through the content, I suddenly found a film titled The Golem from 2018. Not to be confused with the character from Lord of the Rings, The Golem is a famous figure in Jewish folklore.
According to Wikipedia, the most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel – the late-16th-century rabbi of Prague. There are many tales differing on how the golem was brought to life and controlled afterward.
According to Moment Magazine, “the golem is a highly mutable metaphor with seemingly limitless symbolism. It can be victim or villain, Jew or non-Jew, man or woman—or sometimes both. Over the centuries it has been used to connote war, community, isolation, hope and despair.”
According to this movie, The Golem is a child made of clay that a Jewish woman creates to enact revenge on those who have wronged her. Needless to say I was intrigued and gave it a go and I am glad I did.
Set in a Ukrainian village in the 1600’s, a plague has broken out all over the land, except for one small village of Jewish settlers. Jealous of this fact, the village is placed under siege by an angry mob of Catholic villagers, who demand the Jews provide them with a cure for the plague or else. With the threat of death upon them, a woman named Hanna, who has been secretly reading the ancient texts (a thing that Jewish women were forbidden to do at this time) successfully creates a Golem protector to fight off the invaders. Unfortunately, it turns out this Golem is deadlier then she expected, and has also decided to play with her emotions by taking the form of her dead son.
This film does a great job translating the ancient cautionary tale and giving it a fresh spin. The acting here is fantastic, especially from Hani Furstenberg as Hanna. Furstenberg does a fantastic job conveying Hanna’s grief and confusion over her son’s death and her desperation as she searches for answers as to why God let him die, eventually earning some sense of redemption and a second chance at being a mom, despite the cost. The film also presents a nice feminist twist on the tale that delivers its message of girl power without being heavy-handed. You feel for Hanna even as you question her motives as the story unfolds.
What fascinated me the most about this film was seeing old Jewish traditions being depicted in a way that didn’t involve singing songs from Fiddler On The Roof. Stories and tales like this are not the norm in the Hollywood system, and while we have had many Christian-based horror films in the past, it was refreshing to see one told from the point of view of another major religion. I am hoping to see more films like this in the future.
Like The VVItch, The Golem is a slow burn. Had the film been a high-octane horror fest, it probably would not have been as well told as it is. It needs the time taken to weave its tale in order to effectively work as both a story of well-earned revenge and a cautionary tale about the consequences of playing God. If you are a fan of horror films that take their time, you will be richly rewarded by this one.
If there is one thing that swept me away about this film, it was how it was shot. The cinematography is stellar. Despite the rustic appearance of this small village, the camera shows the beauty of it and the country surrounding it. When it comes to the darkness and terror, it lets us see just enough to allow us to witness the horror, but not enough to repulse us. For me, the cinematography is the true star of this film.
All in all, if you have Netflix and enjoy a good horror movie, I say add you should add this film to your queue. I honestly do not think you will be disappointed.