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‘Attachment’ review: fresh new take on possession horror

Can you call a horror movie lovely?

Attachment is a love story, rich with Jewish folklore and mysticism. It’s also a horror movie. Beginning with meet-cute at a library in Copenhagen, our protagonists quickly fall in love. Maja (Josephine Park) is dressed as an elf-princess — she’s a has-been actor who can only get gigs for things like that. She runs into Leah (Ellie Kendrick), a British student who is studying abroad. After the two meet, they do exactly what people in rom-coms normally do – they’re inseparable. If I hadn’t read the film’s synopsis, I would absolutely think that I was about to watch a fairly standard, albeit queer, romantic comedy.

The sweet beginning doesn’t last too long for the new couple before Leah starts displaying strange behavior. Eventually, she has a seizure in Maja’s apartment. In true U-Hauling fashion, the new couple leave Denmark together, to go back to Northern London, where Leah lives with her mother. Leah’s mother, Chana, is very superstitious — and religious. 

It’s difficult for any couple to move in with a parent, and at first Maja chalks up the difficulty she has with Chana to their cultural differences. Chana is strange and secretive. It’s unclear if Chana — and the community — are really approving of Leah’s sexuality, but it is clear that Chana loves her, to a smothering, co-dependent degree. Leah and Maja’s sexuality is never a focus of Attachment, never the basis that plot points revolve around or the reason that bad things are about to happen to them. 

Chana is extremely pushy and over-involved with Leah’s affairs – she becomes obsessive about taking care of Leah, making her food and giving her massages. It’s creepy in a way that reminded me of Sharp Objects, and, of course, The Act. The truth of Attachment — and the attachment Chana has to Leah — is not exactly Munchausen-by-proxy, although it bears similarities. Chana is convinced that Leah will not be safe if she is away from her home in Northern London — that her extended absence with Maja is what caused her illness.

Every performance in Attachment feels genuine. Sofie Gråbøl is excellent as Chana, superstitious and neurotic as a way of covering up her fear. The dynamic between Leah and Maja is great; though the two women are very different, they’re believable as a couple, with a real chemistry. There’s a sense that the two characters really do care about each other — particularly that Maja cares about Leah. It’s great to see Ellie Kendrick – who most of us probably remember as Meera Reed – in this role as Leah. She goes from loving girlfriend to detached and creepy nightmare with ease. Her bones crack and creak, her skin rots and bruises, and I felt genuinely scared for both her and Maja. The special effects here are limited, and they’re not missed. 

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Attachment

So often, possession scenes can remove any sense of realism in a horror film, but Ellie Kendrick’s portrayal of Leah, possessed by a dybbuk, is absolutely captivating. It’s refreshing too, to see a possession film that has nothing to do with Catholicism, and instead everything to do with Jewish mysticism.

Attachment is Danish writer/director Gabriel Bier Gislason’s first feature film, and it’s a lovely one (can you call a horror movie lovely?). Gislason had lived in the Hasidic area of Northern London where most of the film takes place, and a clear sentimentality and love for the Yiddish culture there shine through.

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Attachment

There is a fair amount of comedic relief in Attachment, with Maja making a few cultural goofs that are pretty funny. David Dencik, in particular, as Uncle Lev, is a fun character to watch. Even as the film delves into horror, there is just the right hint of camp and humor to remind you that this is a romantic comedy, even though it’s also a horror movie. There is some exposition, as Maja learns all about the Jewish mysticism and black magic – a dybbuk, specifically – that has made its home in Leah’s body, but it doesn’t take anything away from the film’s flow and pace. 

Attachment has many meanings here, and as unhealthy attachments are slowly parsed out near the end of the film, I hoped that Leah and Maja would have a healthy relationship going forward, as they would in any romantic comedy. The talented cast of this film strike the balance between horror and romantic comedy well. Attachment is the perfect date-night movie for horror fans, and it will be out just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Attachment comes to Shudder on February 9, 2023

Attachment
‘Attachment’ review: fresh new take on possession horror
Attachment
‘Attachment’ is a fresh take on the possession sub-genre, and on queer horror. With great performances and an interesting setting, ‘Attachment’ merges comedy, romance, and horror smoothly.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Great performances, especially from the two leads.
Excellent blend of humor and horror, without being too campy or over-the-top.
A different setting and culture than most possession films.
Allows suspense to build slowly; but it’s not a slow burn.
Could have leaned further into suspense.
8
Good

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