Check: When it comes to horror movies, Keith Thomas’s first feature film has the right setting and premise. What can be scarier than guarding a corpse in a mysterious old house in low light? However, ‘The Vigil’ never really morphs into a super scary affair that ‘won’t leave you’. For starters, the pacing of the movie is lethargic and lazy to the point of making you feel bored, while you wait for things to get going. Sure, Thomas ditches the usual horror tropes like scares and focuses more on
the supernatural elements of Jewish folklore and the ghostly atmosphere. However, the lack of urgency takes its toll and you have to wait too long for a revealing climax that doesn’t make up for the high expectations of a studio that gave us hit franchises like Paranormal Activity, The Invisible Man, Insidious, Purge. and Ouija among others. Sure, some of these movies had a similar pacing too, but many of them had more fascinating elements.
‘The Vigil’ begins on a promising note when Yakov (Dave Davis) is asked by his former rabbi to keep an eye on the body of a recently deceased community member. Yakov bargains with him over his fee and finally sets a price, but at this point, we know it will be Yakov, who could end up paying a much higher price in return. Thomas builds anticipation but is unable to hold the audience’s attention for long. He chooses to keep the proceedings dark and shrouded in mystery, but not in a way that fuels momentum. The bilingual execution of the film is also a bit difficult to understand, so the use of subtitles is strongly recommended.
Dave Davis gives a sincere performance: that of a man in the wrong place at the wrong time and seized with terror. It’s the vulnerability in her performance that brings out some of the chills. The late veteran actor Lynn Cohen also successfully adds some mystery. But they are at the service of an execution that does not offer a shocking horror experience despite having most of the elements at their disposal.
Rooted in Jewish culture and mysticism, ‘La Vigilia’ takes the road less traveled and for that it is necessary to applaud. Yet at the end of it all, this one feels more like a low-budget, spent wannabe horror than an organic, intellectual horror story.