In Jewish lore, the golem — a soulless and violent creature fashioned from clay who wreaks terrible vengeance on anti-semites — is powered by kabbalistic magic.
In this year’s The Golem, directed by Yoav Paz and Doron Paz with a screenplay by Ariel Cohen, it is powered by estrogen. Hani Furstenberg plays Hanna, a 17th-century Jewess whose small Lithuanian village is just far enough away from its neighbors to have escaped a plague outbreak. The unwashed and ignorant peasants figure it must be the Jews who caused it, and so their brutish leader, Vladimir (Alex Tritenko) does what brutish leaders so often like to do, he organizes a pogrom.
Hanna is unable to conceive (she’s been secretly using birth control — shhhhhhh) and the village’s aged rabbi, her father-in-law, blames her for not doing her womanly duty by knocking out some kids, unlike the fertile widow down the street flirting with Hanna’s husband Benjamin (Ishai Golan).
The Jewish men are of course whiny nebbishes, but Hanna has plenty of testosterone to spare. She’s been studying forbidden kabbalistic texts at night when no one was around, and urges action while the bearded weenies only want to tremble and plead with God (okay, I guess some reality was bound to seep in).
Predictably, the only other person who steps forward to take action is another female, the village’s wise woman/healer, who tries to save Vladimir’s plague-infected daughter.
Hanna cooks up a golem, and for some reason known only to central casting, it pops to life as a small child (Konstantin Anikienko), a combination McCauley Culkin and Freddie Krueger.
When the kid shows up and massacres a peasant posse, Benjamin apologetically whines to his wife, “You were right; we should have stood up for ourselves from the beginning. I’m sorry.” Not, “Uh, excuse me, but, like, who is this tyke dripping in plasma – and why is he bulletproof?”
A bonus: while sex between Hanna and Benjamin was mechanical and emotionless before, once the kid arrives they go at it like they’re in the grotto at Hef’s mansion – because, I suppose, the woman has been empowered.
The pathetically flaccid Jewish men decide their pre-pubescent protector has to go, but alas they’re too late: the full-scale attack on the Jewish village begins, and everyone except Hanna, hubby and the pint-sized engine of destruction is sliced and diced.
Of course, no orgy of emasculation would be complete without a phallic symbol: the elderly rabbi is stabbed to death with the long shofar (ram’s horn) he was using to help destroy the child; it now protrudes from his abdomen like a grotesque erection, blood spurting as if from a fire hose.
At the end (spoiler alert) Hanna pulls the slip of paper bearing the magical names that animate the golem out of the boy’s mouth and he dissolves to dust. But no fear: the paper is found in the dirt in the final scene – by a little girl, natch – and so once again a female takes control, one who will doubtless resurrect the destroyer and rescue not only a new generation of powerless Jews but a budding horror movie franchise.
In the ancient stories, unspeakable destruction was unleashed through an inhuman automaton. Today, we no longer require inhuman automatons – we have 21st century feminism instead, which makes the once fearsome golem look like Richard Simmons.
Howard Riell is a veteran journalist, editor, author, teacher and consultant. An Orthodox Jew, he has hosted and produced his own radio talk show, Riell Truth, on Christian radio station KHNC 1360AM in Colorado, since 2008.