IMDb Rating: 5.8/10
R | 1h 29min | Horror | 23 Jul 2020 (Australia) | Movie
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82% Fresh (Critic Reviews)
Director: Keith Thomas
Writers: Keith Thomas
Stars: Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Malky Goldman
Movie Tagline: Rooted in Jewish culture and mysticism, The Vigil is a supernatural horror film set in a unique world: The Hasidic community of “Boro” Park, Brooklyn.
IMDb summary: A man providing overnight watch to a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community finds himself opposite a malevolent entity, in writer-director Keith Thomas’ electrifying feature debut.
This review was written by Jeremy
The Vigil is set in an Orthodox Jewish community and follows a young man named Yakov who is played by Dave Davis. Yakov seems to have “lost his way” religiously after a traumatic event forces him to question his faith and leave. And this is something that his friends think he can resolve alone, but the Orthodox Jewish community doesn’t agree. They try to pull him back in through a persistent rabbi who waits for Yakov outside after he has had a meeting with his friends. Yakov is finally persuaded (because of his financial circumstances) to take on a one-off job to watch over a person in their community who has recently passed. Yakov needs the money, so he reluctantly agrees to do the vigil.
Dave Davis as Yakov plays the part fantastically. He seems very on edge even when he’s sitting down. You just know something bad has happened to him. You see it in his eyes, his actions. He is so reserved, almost too afraid to do the most basic thing. And he’s willing to put aside his personal tragedy so he can sit alone in an ancient house with a dead guy until dawn. Sounds like fun to me.
And then there’s the matter of the elderly wife of the dead man who just has dementia. Yakov is told that she will be “sleeping” by the Rabbi, but she isn’t. The old lady is instrumental in how the rest of the scenes play out She is directly connected to everything that eventually happens to Yakov in the house.
Keith Thomas wrote and directed this, and it’s a powerful debut film. Use of poor lighting does a lot to set the sombre mood inside the house where Yakov must conduct the vigil. Thomas did well to get the atmosphere just right and the eeriness of the location is spot-on. Sitting alone with a dead body may not seem all that disturbing for some. But how the inside of the house seems to just feel wrong adds to the overwhelming uncomfortable feeling. Not white-knuckle horror time, but it’s well done for Thomas’ first film.
Everything in this film is minimal. No flashy special effects, and the movie takes place in only two locations; Yakov’s apartment and the house of the dead man. Yakov is your eyes and ears and through him, you experience the fear and the isolation that seems to grip onto him like a disembodied hand coming out of the darkness.
There is a sense of foreboding that follows Yakov everywhere in the house. And while I wasn’t a fan of the last 15 – 20 minutes of the film, the rest leading up to that time is super entertaining.
There are a lot of movies that cover similar topics, but very few makes you feel anything like actual fear. For a moment, it felt like The Vigil got very close to doing that for me. And in terms of the pacing, it feels like Kevin Thomas got everything right until the very end where something good that could have been great just fizzled out completely.