There are strong links between religion, the supernatural and the occult. As human beings we seem to be fascinated by the unknown. Our genetic make-up seems to make us long for something else. A higher or outside power. This superstition or belief works so well in horror. Most obviously in a film such as The Exorcist, but this battle between good and evil has criss-crossed genre cinema over the decades. In Keith Thomas’ feature debut, The Vigil, he delves into Judaism.
A shomer is a watchman in the Jewish tradition. They are tasked with observing vigil over the deceased, from the moment of death until their burial. Yakov (Dave Davis) has had a crisis of faith and has left the Orthodox Jewish community. However, desperate for money, he agrees to act as shomer as a favour to Reb Shulem (Menashe Lustig) after the previous incumbent’s sudden departure. He’s in for a very long night.
The Vigil is an atmospheric horror which immerses itself in religious law and ancient superstition to create an eerily tense film. This is heightened by some great sound design and wonderful use of colours and textures. Instead of peppering his film with jump scares, Thomas relies on the oddness of the situation and the setting to gradually ramp-up the overwhelming sense of wrongness. The Vigil is a quietly chilling film.
The Vigil is in cinemas from 31 July.