the vigil | keith thomas | dave davis | menashe lustig | malky goldman | mystery | thriller | united states | ritual | religion | mythology | demon | haunting | haunted | lynn cohen | fred melamed | ronald cohen | nati rabinowitz | moshe lobel | efraim miller | lea kalisch
Film: The Vigil
Director: Keith Thomas
Writer: Keith Thomas
Starring: Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig and Malky Goldman
This was a movie that I heard about through podcasts and it went on a list of movies to see. I’m a sucker for religious based horror. What made this even more interesting is that it is looking at the Jewish faith and something that is done when a person passes away. No matter what your beliefs, this is a creepy idea in my opinion. The synopsis here is a man providing overnight watch to a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community who finds himself opposite a malevolent entity.
We start this off getting a bit of background information. For thousands of years, those of Jewish faith have practiced the ritual of a vigil. The body is watched around the clock in shifts by a Shomer or watchman. They read psalms while doing this to comfort and protect the soul from unseen evils. Usually this is done by family or friends, but there are paid ones as well. The movie then shifts us over to what seems like sounds of war. There is a woman who looks behind her to a man with a gun. He is being commanded to shoot her.
The movie then takes us to Yakov Ronen (Dave Davis) who is in a bathroom composing himself. He takes a pill before leaving and returning to a group led by Lane (Nati Rabinowitz). I’m not entirely sure what the reason they are there is, but it seems like part of this is leaving the Jewish faith. They had a life that was more structured and they’re trying to make it on their own. This includes hearing about how Yakov thought he had a job interview nailed until they needed his resume. He proceeded to write it on a scrap piece of paper for them.
After the meeting ends, Sarah (Malky Goldman) seems interested in Yakov. He’s a bit awkward in trying to talk to her, but she gives him her number. He is uneasy though when he looks out the window and sees Reb Shulem (Menashe Lustig). Lane goes down with Yakov to speak with Reb, giving a warning at first. Yakov agrees to speak with him alone. The reason for the visit is Reb offers a job to Yakov. It is one night, $400 to be a Shomer. Yakov is reluctant, but his medication is expensive and he’s struggling to make ends meet.
This job takes them to the home of Mrs. Litvak (Lynn Cohen). Her husband passed away. She takes a look at Yakov and wants him to leave. She doesn’t think he is good for the position. Reb doesn’t have anyone else though, as the other person lined up fled without stating why. Mrs. Litvak does have dementia though so she can’t be fully trusted. Yakov takes on the position and settles in for the night.
It isn’t as easy as he thinks. He has to sit up with the body of Rubin Litvak (Ronald Cohen) for 5 hours. There is a shroud over him. From the beginning of the night, Yakov hears movement upstairs. There are lights in the room that flicker on and off. He also thinks he sees a person in the dark. Are any of these things happening or is Yakov’s past making him uneasy. We get to see a traumatic event that has scarred him. There could be something supernatural happening as well.
That will be where I’ll leave my recap here as that gets you set up with what this movie is doing. Where I want to start here would be what I stated in the beginning. I love learning more about the Jewish faith and this ritual they do. I’ve been to a wake where we see the body of an individual and then go off for lunch at their home. This is different. The body is kept at this place overnight and someone has to be watching it at all times. They are concerned evil spirits can torment the souls so prayers need to be recited to help this. I have to give credit to the Exploding Heads guys on their podcast as they said they were surprised this idea hasn’t been explored before. Taking out anything supernatural, this is a terrifying idea to me.
Where I think I want to shift would be looking at the character of Yakov. We see he is unstable in the beginning. His faith has been shaken by something. Reb is concerned with pulling him back in and helping. He also wants him to do something that he probably isn't ready to do at this time mentally. Yakov needs the money though. Reb seems to be undoing what Lane with his group meetings and Dr. Marvin Kohlberg (Fred Melamed) is helping through medication. Yakov has a dark past. He turned his back on his faith and Reb wants him to return. I think that Davis does a solid job at being this broken person and seeing the growth as he deals with the events of the night.
Now I’ve already said that I like the idea of this ritual and how it scares me. There is a supernatural element here. We are getting a demon that is called Mizzick. I’m not sure if this was made up for the movie or pulled from Jewish lore, but I was quite interested in learning about it. It has this creepy aspect to it that it feeds on the souls of its victims. Its head is turned around so it looks into the past. It also torments its victims. There are some interesting reveals here with Rubin, Yakov and even Mrs. Litvak. How things that are said fit in caught my interest and having Rubin be almost an ‘expert’ on it works. I do think we get a bit of a convenience here though midway through the movie. There was a slight issue for me with that.
That should be enough for the story so I will switch to acting. I’ve already said I liked Davis’ performance. Lustig is interesting as this guy who has good intentions for Yakov, but I think they are also self-serving since he’s religious. Goldman is good for giving Yakov hope. I like how creepy Cohen can be. We don’t know if Mrs. Litvak is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s or if what she is saying about this entity is true. Yakov is our star. Everyone is guiding him to where he ends up, including Rob Tunstall as the embodiment of the Mazzick.
The last things to look at here would be the effects, cinematography and the soundtrack. We don’t get a lot for the effects as it isn’t that type of movie. I am thinking that we’re getting a combination of practical and CGI which works. The real star here though would be the cinematography. They are using blurry focus at times which helps to hide things. They are building an atmosphere that is creepy from the moment we arrive at this house. I think the soundtrack does help here with the ominous sounding music. This all helps to build what the movie needs for me.
So then in conclusion here, this is an interesting movie. I was raised as a Christian and I don’t know much about the Jewish faith. This is something that is based in reality that bodes well for a horror story like we are getting here. I think that Yakov is a good lead and the characters, both good and evil, are directing him to where he ends up through the events of the night. The effects, cinematography and the soundtrack help build the atmosphere that this movie needs as well. I would say that this is a good movie. If what I’m saying sounds interesting, give it a watch. I’m not sure I’ll go higher than where I have it now, but I don’t mean that as a slight.
My Rating: 8 out of 10