“The Vigil” is a supernatural horror film that gains a bit of sophistication from its premise, even if the script (by Director Keith Thomas) is as basic as the film is small scale. The movie is set in the confines of one house over the course of one evening, and without a good story, direction, and performances, it could’ve quickly collapsed. Luckily, the concept feels unique enough to keep it intriguing.
Orthodox Jew Yakov (Dave Davis) has strayed from his faith. Needing money, he agrees to an offer from his former rabbi (Menashe Lustig) to sit as an overnight shomer (someone who watches over the body of a deceased community member and recites prayers to comfort the soul before burial) for a recently deceased Holocaust survivor. Alone in the dilapidated Brooklyn house with only the man’s corpse and his dementia-suffering wife (Lynn Cohen), Yakov senses something is wrong — but it could just be his mind playing tricks. When it is revealed that an evil spirit is present to feed on the pain of those nearby, it forces Yakov to relive a traumatic event from his past, and challenges him to make it until sunrise.
The story delivers more than a boilerplate demon-based thriller. Thomas relies on unsettling camera angles and ominous shadows to create dread, and Davis brings a quietly distressing intensity that builds loads of anticipation in the scenes that matter the most.
“The Vigil” may not exceed many expectations when it comes to horror conventions (you may know what’s coming next before it happens), but the film’s original premise that’s based on Jewish religious traditions, a chilling ending, and well-executed scare tactics make this one more interesting than most.