The Vigil (2019) is intense survival horror in a haunted house, so to speak. But don’t expect too much action.
The Vigil (2019) Synopsis
After a traumatic life incident, Yakov Ronen leaves his Orthodox Jewish community to live a modern life in New York. One evening, however, he is approached to be a Shomer i.e. to watch over a recently deceased man till the body could be collected in the morning. After accepting the job out of the need for money, Yakov discovers that the dead man is hardly the only entity he’d be spending the night with.
First of all, I’d say The Vigil spooked me. After it intrigued me.
Low budget as the movie’s overall feel is, the creative handling of classic haunted house elements generated a consistently unnerving ambience. One that piles up relentlessly and continues to work even after the actual threat is clear in nature.
There’s also the admirable performance of Dave Davis, a delivery that thrives on unspoken anguish rather than hysterical theatrics. Needless to say, the venerable Lynn Cohen steals the show too whenever she appears, be it as a conspirator or the voice of lucidity. I might be wrong here, but her appearances were eventually also necessary interludes. The tension does regularly get that unbearable.
Yeah. It was quite a spook fest. Regrettably, it was ultimately only that too.
How should I put this? The story is fascinating because of the devotion to its roots, as in director Keith Thomas’s determination to explore the Jewish myth of the dybbuk and all the philosophical and psychological undertones beneath that myth.
As worthy an aspiration as that is, faithfulness to tradition ultimately resulted in, well, a rather underplayed climax. Not that I expected hellfire and energy arrows, but the way the creature was banished, spiritually meaningful as it is, discounted the mental struggles of protagonist Yacov. To put it crudely, I got the impression he merely had to man up and say “hey, take a hike.”
And effective as most of the scares are, at times, the lack of inspiration shows. The most obvious of these are the scenes when the techno soundtrack grinds towards unbearable. Nothing significant usually follows these.
In all, I’d say The Vigil was an intimately creepy watch for a Saturday night. A praiseworthy effort too. But made me fear the dybbuk, encourage me to ponder the fiend’s deeper meaning, unfortunately, it didn’t.
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