The Vigil

The Vigil ★★★★

A much more interesting and successful horror film based around guilt than You Should Have Left, this Blumhouse flick eschews most of the studio's usual tropes and focuses on the creepiness inherent in the elements of the Jewish faith the horror stems from.

Our protagonist has recently stepped away from his Hasidic background and is struggling to adapt to his new life in Brooklyn. He is offered some easy money to act as a Shomer, someone who watches over the body of the recently deceased in their home, one of the core elements of the Jewish tradition. However, with only the deceased's ailing widow for company, things start to go horribly wrong as the demon who had haunted the dead man returns to look for a new host.......

The dark, foreboding terraced house of the dead man is the prime location and its swathed in near permanent blackness. Its single location is mined for all its worth with the protagonist haunted by all manner of creeping dread, on his phone, in the cellar and most importantly in his own mind. His own guilt at a past tragedy opens the film up to a decent exploration of how guilt can manifest itself physically and spiritually and my only real criticism of the film is that this element of is it in his own mind isn't really given much time, the film making it all too clear that there IS something in the house, a charge that could also be levied against the recent His House also.

The Jewish background really adds to the film, even if the scares are very traditional - bringing in all manner of issue facing the community, from historic tragedies to more current cultural issues, its a nice flavouring around which to place the scares. And the scares work nicely too - more creeping dread than cattle prod jump scares, its sold by our lead who does a sterling job of balancing his faith (or lack thereof), his guilt and selling us on some of the more horrific elements on show (the method employed by the entity to make sure he doesn't leave the house is particularly grim and needs selling wholly to work....which it does).

Doing nothing really new, but like Under the Shadow, a change of heritage works wonders and this ends up a decent little chiller, well played, written and directed, yet something that's not too far out of the norm for all to enjoy.

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