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‘The Vigil’ review: Slow burn horror will make you want to keep the lights on

An ancient evil preys over a young man tasked with watching a dead body.

If there was ever a movie that proves that money isn’t everything, The Vigil is it. The Vigil is the supernatural feature film debut of writer/director Keith Thomas that tells the story of a horrific night that happens to a Jewish guy named Yakov Ronen (Dave Davis).

Yakov, a timid, soft-spoken man who is down on his luck, financially accepts an offer from his former Rabbi to fulfill the duties of a Shomer for five hours in exchange for five hundred dollars. A shomer is the ritualistic Jewish practice of looking after a dead body for one night. Unfortunately for Yakov, his luck goes from bad to worse when he discovers there’s an evil entity called Mazzick living in the house that won’t let him leave.

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The Vigil is a creepy toe-splitting ride loaded with plenty of jump scares and unnerving tension. Script wise, The Vigil starts in a bit of an ironic comedic sense. The main protagonist chooses to go and sit with a corpse over possibly going out with a woman named Sarah (Malky Goldman) who has a clear interest in him.

From the second that Yakov enters the house of the deceased you get sort of an unsettling nervous feeling that sits in your stomach. It doesn’t help that Mrs. Litvak the widow of the deceased played to perfection by Lynn Cohen pops in and out of the frame muttering songs at random times. 

As far as the horror element of the film is concerned, it takes a Riddley Scott camera angle approach where we get glimpses of the entity we come to know as Mazzick throughout the movie. It is described as a demon of sorts that is forced to walk backwards and consumes its energy from the traumatic incidents of its victims.

There are times when it does appear that the line between what’s real and the psychological are blurred. Keith Thomas has a superb eye for timing his camera angles and moments to make you want to cover your eyes when Yakov goes to do something as simple as opening a door.    

'The Vigil' review: Slow burn horror will make you want to keep the lights on

But on a deeper level, The Vigil isn’t just about the soul-sucking supernatural it addresses problems with Yakov as well. He’s socially awkward, afraid to talk to women, and has a psychiatric condition caused by a traumatic event involving his brother in the film. We learn lessons like confronting your past, forgiveness and taking chances in life all while still keeping all the scary themes in tack. The soundtrack, flickering lights, weird noises, and stand-out performance by actor Dave Davis make it all worthwhile.

The Vigil is an interesting slow-burn horror story that will easily make you want to sleep with the lights on. It’s informative, frightening, and is in both English, and has a few moments where the characters speak in Hebrew. But don’t worry subtitles are provided for those moments. The plot gets straight to the point, the characters feel realistic and the Mazzick adds plenty of fear. You won’t want to watch this alone.

The Vigil is in theaters and on VOD February 26

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