The Reel Review
A young New Yorker, psychologically scarred from a recent tragedy, agrees to stand watch overnight at the home of a recently deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community. While in the home, he senses the presence of a mazzik, a demon, causing him to question his sanity and fear for his soul, in this psychological horror.
In his feature film debut, writer/director Keith Thomas does an impressive job setting up an increasingly unsettling scenario, as Yakov (Dave Davis) begrudgingly agrees to serve as a shomer overnight despite having recently left Orthodox Judaism’s more insular Hasidic community for a secular lifestyle.
Davis (The Walking Dead) channels all the terror as the emotionally fragile soul staying in what is undoubtedly the creepiest home in Brooklyn’s Borough Park. A chilling score and an excellent performance from the late Lynn Cohen (Munich, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) as the dead man’s emotionally-tormented wife helps heighten the tension.
It is in the third act where the low budget thriller starts to unravel, with unexplained links to a distant past and a frustratingly hokey ending that betrays what until then was a chilling, and gripping story. But as low budget horror films go, The Vigil is still a pretty impressive debut.
• A shomer (or shomeret if female) reads the Torah to protect his/her own soul while sitting with the body of the newly deceased Orthodox Jew to ensure that a demon doesn’t take the departed’s soul prior to the body’s burial.
• Lynn Cohen, who played Magda in Sex and the City and the two films, died on February 14, 2020. She was 86. She is survived by her husband Ronald, who plays her husband, Mr. Litvak, in The Vigil.
• Dave Davis currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is a member of the comedy group Bare Handed Bear Handlers, which has released a web miniseries, short films and music videos.