Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Malky Goldman, Fred Melamed
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…a decent fright flick, with a unique monster and an extremely likeable protagonist.
Even the most reverent lover of horror films has to admit, the genre can at times get a little repetitive. Nowhere is this more clear than in the religious iconography that appears in the majority of supernatural flicks. If you played a drinking game that entailed necking a shot every time an earnest, white-haired old man held aloft a trembling crucifix, you’d likely die of alcohol poisoning within the first couple of hours. The Vigil, which bills itself as a “Jewish horror movie”, makes the welcome choice to play with some religious imagery that isn’t your standard Christian gear, and crafts a decent horror flick in its own right.
The Vigil tells the tale of pleasant, albeit nebbishy, Yakov Ronen (Dave Davis) who was formerly part of an ultra orthodox community, but is now just your regular Jewish American. Yakov is dragged somewhat back into the fold to be a Shomer, which entails sitting with a deceased person in an overnight vigil. Piss easy job, right? Not so much, because this particular stiff belonged to Dr. Kohlberg (Fred Melamed) and that cat had some serious unfinished business with an entity known as a dybbuk.
The Vigil is at its best when it leans into what makes it unique. The Jewish folklore, the mostly singular setting and the focus on Dave Davis who gives a hell of a strong performance in a role that would have been extremely challenging to play. First time director Keith Thomas does a fine job of highlighting the claustrophobia and paranoia of the dingy house in which we spend most of the runtime. Less successful are the moments when The Vigil tries to fit with the trappings of being a mid-tier Blumhouse entry: things moving past the camera, SUDDEN LOUD NOISES and horribly-executed jumpscares. They add nothing to the mix and in fact detract from the already good stuff on display.
Still, any film that features a protagonist earnestly donning a yamalka ready to face down evil, at least gets points for having a red hot go, and despite a lack of consistent confidence in the material, The Vigil offers enough fresh elements to stand out from the crowd. Not quite as assured as recent Aussie genre gem, Relic, The Vigil is nonetheless a decent fright flick, with a unique monster and an extremely likeable protagonist. And for expanding the lexicon of cinematic religious imagery in genre films, we say mazel tov!