Desperate for money, a young man accepts an overnight job from a former acquaintance to watch over a recently deceased man. Though he’s done this role before, something supernatural is looming nearby, looking for its next target. Written and directed by Keith Thomas, The Vigil has strong, atmospheric visuals and a fascinating look at Orthodox Jewish traditions and myths.
Yakov (Dave Davis) has recently left his strict religious lifestyle and seeks support with a group of other former members. He’s doing his best but is struggling to adapt from both a financial and cultural sense. And he’s dealing with a past trauma which has affected his overall mental health.
One evening he’s caught off guard by an old friend who asks if he can keep vigil over a recently deceased elder. In their community, this means watching over the dead until they can be properly buried. Yakov had done this many times before, and being desperate for money, he accepts and is required to sit with the body until morning.
With only the man’s widow in the house, Yakov begins to hear and see things, which he correlates to his mental health. Though, it’s soon apparent that something dangerous is lurking within the home, and its taken a liking to Yakov.
The Vigil has an intriguing plot and insight into religious traditions that aren’t always the subject of most horror films. The ominous presence of the entity allows for a nice tension to build throughout, but I didn’t find the pacing to do many favors for it.
The film feels slightly bogged down by exposition and backstory, more in terms of the catalyst for Yakov’s guilt. I didn’t find the piece about his brother, revealed in a flashback, to be effective. For me, the whole sequence felt poorly done and cheap, when it’s really meant to be an impactful and upsetting moment. And a point that drives the emotion behind the final act, but it felt slightly underdeveloped to me.
It’s a beautiful film with a really unique premise. Though I was expecting something a bit more terrorizing, I wasn’t disappointed by it being a much slower paced. It houses several effective frights that play with the shadows inside the home, which were some of the films strongest. And I throughly enjoyed its somber and allusive ending.
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