A quintessential low-budget supernatural horror, The Vigil mines Jewish folklore and rituals to create an effective sub-genre experience.
Keith Thomas’s 90-minute film unfolds over one night and largely in a single location. Yakov (an expressive and intense Dave Davis) has been offered a well-paying job: to maintain a vigil for a deceased person until the last rites are performed. The task is usually performed by family members, but in the absence of any, an outsider is hired to fulfill the role.
Yakov is struggling financially and emotionally, and is working through a trauma that has shaken his Jewish faith. Desperate for money, he accepts the task to watch over Litvak’s body. Litvak’s wiry wife (Lynn Cohen) wanders around the house ominously declaring that things are not as they seem.
The five-hour shift is not going to be easy money after all. Yakov begins to see shadowy figures and learns of a demonic figure lurking in the house, waiting to feed off grief and trauma.
Jump scares, the oppressiveness of solitude and metaphors abound in this faith-based horror. The multilingual film questions the real and the imagined, grief and guilt, internal demons and the baggage of the past. Fusion music, moody lighting, visual effects, Davis’s performance and a slow tracking camera create a jittery, atmospheric and lingering horror experience.