TIFF19: The Vigil

The Vigil (2019) 1h 28min | Horror | 9 September 2019 (Canada) Summary: A man providing overnight watch to a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community finds himself opposite a malevolent entity, in writer-director Keith Thomas' electrifying feature debut.
Countries: USALanguages: English, Yiddish

An orthodox Jewish man of lapsed faith is asked to watch over the body of a recently deceased Holocaust survivor in The Vigil. Yakov Ronen (Dave Davis) is a member of Brooklyn’s Hassidic “Boro” Park neighbourhood, who lost his faith after the tragic death of his brother. Following a support group meeting, Yakov is approached by rabbi Reb Shulem (Menashe Lustig) to be a last-minute shomer for recently deceased Holocaust survivor Rubin Litvak (Ronald Cohen), while his widow Mrs. Livak (Lynn Cohen) sleeps. As he starts his five-hour vigil over the body, Yakov finds himself tormented by a demonic presence.

With The Vigil, first-time writer/director Keith Thomas has created a supernatural horror film that is steeped in the Orthodox Jewish faith. At the core of the plot is the ancient Jewish ritual of The Vigil, where a shomer is assigned to watch over and protect the soul of a recently deceased body. During his vigil, Yakov discovers that Mr. Litvak spent most of his life researching the Jewish demon, known as the Mazzik, which attaches itself to individuals and torments them with memories from their past.

The Vigil

Since many supernatural horror films involving demons are based on the Christian faith, I have to say that I found the fact that The Vigil is based entirely around Orthodox Jewish beliefs to be quite interesting. While a few films have already featured the Jewish demon Dybbuk, such as 2015’s Demon, The Vigil familiarizes us with the mythology behind the Mazzik, grotesquely depicted in the film as a monstrous man, with his head twisted backwards. Not only is The Vigil quite possibly one of the most Jewish horror films you’ll see, but it does deliver on the scares as well, including a couple of really good ones.

TIFF19 screenings of The Vigil

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).