The Vigil

Year: 2019
Production Co: Boulderlight Pictures
Director: Keith Thomas
Writer: Keith Thomas
Cast: Dave Davis

It's an effective horror movie when you keep silently exhorting the protagonist to just leave the house, and then feel a sinking, morbid terror when he/she finally tries and realises they can't.

We meet Ronen (Dave Davis) in what appears to be a support group. He's a former orthodox Jewish man who's apparently fallen away from his faith and intends to live a more normal life in his home city of Brooklyn.

Actually the real opening scene shows a young man pointing a gun at a young woman in a forest, a Nazi officer screaming at him to execute her, a shadow building in the woods behind them.

Thus far we have no idea how the terrible event will connect to Ronen's story, but in the present day he's out of work and needs money desperately. When a former acquaintance offers him a very decent sum to keep vigil over a deceased member of the community overnight according to the Hassidic Jewish tradition, Ronen can hardly refuse.

It seems like easy money – although the very horror movie apartment, where the light from a few feeble lamps barely holds back the all-pervading gloom, is his (and our) first warning.

The elderly wife of the deceased, Mrs Litvak, immediately tries to refuse Ronen's presence but is shepherded off to bed, Ronen's friend assuring him she's crazy and won't give Ronen any trouble.

But as he tries to read, doze, text and call Sarah, the young woman he's made a connection with at the vigil, all with Mr Litvak's body draped across a table beneath a sheet nearby, Ronen's night isn't nearly as quiet and uneventful as he hoped.

The shadow stalking stealthily through the woods in the opening shot isn't just a shadow, and with it's prior host – Mr Litvak – gone, it needs another.

I don't remember it being very clear whether Ronen's friend knew about the entity waiting for him, but it becomes apparent Mrs Litvak knows about it all too well.

After the slow-burn approach to the building horror, where neither you nor the hero are quite sure whether there's something scary or just weird going on, Ronen finds himself in the basement viewing a 16mm film of Mr Litvak explaining that he's been haunted by a supernatural creature that attached itself to him during the Holocaust after what he's done (calling back to the opening scene).

But as we slowly find out over the film's running time, Ronen is similarly damaged after a terrible incident years before that we see through gradually expanded flashbacks.

By this time Ronen realises something in the house is seriously not right, and after trying to flee (unsuccessfully), he has no choice but to face and defeat the creature latching itself onto him.

it's a very effective haunted house story, with too many dank corners and shadows in the two storey bedsit and a creepy old lady in the mix. Writer/director Keith Thomas also employs some very inventive frights and it's a very smart blending of scares and story.

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