The Vigil (MA) - 90 minutes
A man haunted by his past is forced to face his demons in the slow-moving, supernatural religious horror The Vigil.
Yakov Ronen (Dave Davis – Logan) is but a shadow of a man in the aftermath of a tragedy that befell his younger brother. He was present but he didn’t intervene and before he knew it, it was too late.
Ronen is on meds and has spent time in hospital (the implication is in a psychiatric institution).
Long a part of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, he is used to hearing and seeing things, but not like what he is about to encounter.
He has taken the step to turn his back on his former life and embrace a more open-minded approach to religion.
Only, he is sought out by a rabbi and community leader, Reb Shulem (Menashe Lustig – Menashe), who – knowing Ronen is hard up for money – prevails upon him to sit with the body of a deceased man, Mr Litvak, overnight in return for cash.
The practice is known as shomer and means to guard, watch or preserve.
Reluctant though Ronen is to do so, his economic woes see him accede to the request.
Only Ronen gets far more than he bargained for as he confronts the demon that has plagued the deceased man (and his wife) since Mr Litvak survived the Holocaust decades earlier.
The Vigil is a film strictly for selective tastes.
It is rooted in Jewish culture and mysticism, set in the unique world of the Hasidic community of “Boro” Park in Brooklyn.
An understanding of the workings of religious Jews would be a distinct advantage.
It is a horror that relies upon tropes of the genre – darkness, shadows, disturbing music and shocks.
The build-up is slow and hardly all that compelling. For much of it, I had in my head the adage “things that go bump in the night”.
A significant portion of the movie focuses squarely on Davis playing a lone hand as a man with visions and out of body experiences.
Gradually, Ronen’s back story – for which he has never forgiven himself – is revealed.
The acting is, at times, unconvincing – that is contrived.
While much of the “action” takes place in an old house at night, the lack of light means that on occasions you are straining to see exactly what is going on.
Often the music is scarier than the “tricks” seen on screen.
The Vigil is the work of first-time feature film writer and director Keith Thomas and while the film is not without merit – in terms of it being driven by past barbarities and disgraceful behaviour – his inexperience shows.
Rated MA, it scores a 6 out of 10.