Words Glenn Blomfield
This film came across as one of those pleasant surprises. The Vigil is from first time feature film director Keith Thomas, who is also the film’s writer. From Production Company BLUMHOUSE, which has some hit Horror films, like Get Out, Us, Halloween (2018), Vigil is the type of horror film that I love, that ‘old school’ horror that builds on tension, suspense, and gets under your skin and into your psyche, making you feel uncomfortable.
What is also intriguing with The Vigil is the unique Jewish perspective. Now I can’t say I am familiar in anyway of Jewish religion and faith. Though with the angle director/writer Keith Thomas takes with it, makes for some chilling and haunting suspense.
When first stepping into the film, you initially feel like a stranger in a strange environment. We are looking inside a apartment with a small group of young people, talking in a meeting, about establishing themselves in a normal world, now that they have left their Orthodox Jewish community. Exiled, and very unfamiliar what life is like in a world that we except is everyday life. Here we are introduced to our Protagonist Yakov Ronen (played by Dave Davis) who is not able to earn a living to pay for rent and medication for anxiety and depression. Leaving this meeting, waiting outside in the street during the night, is a Rabbi, who he knows. This meeting sets up the films scenario nicely, which takes place over the next five hours.
Yakov being vulnerable, accepts a job as a Shomer, where he takes a vigil over a recent departed Jewish body. Watching over the body ’til morning light. Though with this vigil there is a malevolent evil force/presence that has hold over the recent departed. With the skill of the writing. director Thomas creates a very scary environment, building on psychological tension. The haunting past intertwines with the vigil. The setting, a dark shadowy home, that houses the old widow (Mrs Litvak), still home lurking within its dark corners.
The recently departed cadaver lays in the living room in state. Our protagonist sitting alone in vigil, we also sit as the viewer, also staring at the body, with these long moments, we feel the unsettling suspense growing, our imagination leading us into the dark corners of the home. Did we see something move, is there something else? This is where the success of the film works, creeping under your sensory senses and making for a great scary haunting ride.
Davis aka Yakov Ronen, holds the film nicely together, he arches his character very convincingly, and we feel his vulnerability. The premise of the Orthodox Jewish Community and culture makes for a unique twist in the Horror genre, it could be the making for a movie franchise, even a TV mini series. If I was to to have one quibble, it is the use of mobile phone texting, its one of those problematic issues that filmmakers have to deal with, i.e. how to show someone texting without always showing the phone, which shows the text appearing on the screen. With a film like The Vigil which relies a lot on drawing you into a dark environment, the texting graphics on the screen can pull you out for a moment.
The Vigil is a welcome surprise into the Horror genre. Who knew Orthodox Jewish faith could make for a really scary horror film? This is not gory, jump scare, horror, this is a dramatic haunting film. I for one really enjoyed The Vigil. More of these please.
In cimemas now.