Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Vigil Review: Old School Horror Steeped In Jewish Tradition

Release date: February 26, 2021
Running time: 90 minutes
Stars: Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Malky Goldman, and Lynn Cohen
Written and Directed by Keith Thomas

Steeped in ancient Jewish lore and demonology, THE VIGIL is supernatural horror film set over the course of a single evening in Brooklyn's Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood. Low on funds and having recently left his insular religious community, Yakov (Dave Davis) reluctantly accepts an offer from his former rabbi and confidante (Menashe Lustig) to take on the responsibility of an overnight "shomer," fulfilling the Jewish practice of watching over the body of a deceased community member. Shortly after arriving at the recently departed's dilapidated house to sit the vigil, Yakov begins to realize that something is very, very wrong.

The Vigil has an old school horror feel with a limited setting, good practical effects, and a text that evokes the 80s classics that influenced this film.  Much of the film takes place in the dilapidated house, and much of it is in a single room at night.  The house is an old style house with lighting that leaves plenty of unknown space and shadows.  The film masterfully uses these to keep you on edge, with little visions here and there and sometimes no visions.  It forces you to look at every nook and cranny to see what is and isn't there, keeping the viewer constantly on edge.  And this makes sense due to the subject matter of the film.  Having a corpse in the room at all times at night just makes for an unnerving experience, before all the tricks that the filmmakers used to heighten that.  

The Vigil is just a well constructed horror film.  I loved the smart use of paranoia, where you are not certain what exactly is going on and the film smartly introduces plenty of doubt throughout the night.  Was that voice that you just heard someone in the house, or something otherworldly?  And the Vigil is steeped in Jewish tradition, which makes for an interesting setting.  I really liked the lore that was introduced as well as the fact that the characters freely switched between Hebrew and English.  It made for a much more natural feeling film with bilingual characters speaking as they normally would.  On top of the great sound effects, the film also occasionally has some otherworldly music to accentuate what occurs on screen.  It is a nice touch and helps to bridge the gap between the older, classic setting, and the younger protagonist.  And the story of The Vigil just builds and builds towards a climactic conclusion.  The film is a wonderfully done, self contained throwback horror film.  

The Vigil takes a wonderful, old school horror style and steeps it in Jewish tradition, with a masterful use of light, shadows, sound, and suspense.

Watch it.

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The Vigil is in select theaters, on digital platforms, and VOD on February 26th.

For showtimes, click here.

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