You can’t run away from your past. Your past is always there, over your shoulder, like the monster in a scary movie — spin your head around and maybe you’ll just see something out of the corner of your eye, or maybe there will be a wall of fangs straight on snapping back. Luck of the draw, and not knowing which it’ll be is what makes us all, each and every one, haunted people.
And like most of the smart and hyper-efficient horror films before it Keith Thomas’ shudder-inducing The Vigil knows all of the above, and melts it down into the metaphor of terrifying movie stuff. He’s aided by some good old-fashioned folklore, here of the Jewish variety, as the tale he spins centers in on a lapsed Orthodox fella by the name of Yakov (Dave Davis) who, in dire need of fast cash, steps back for a single night into the religious fold he’d abandoned due to a test of faith, to sit shomer over a recently deceased.
All that means is he needs to watch over the body. Just some old man. Big pay day. The body’s barely cold by the time he gets there. No big whoop. Overnight. Dead body. In the dark. With a dead body. What could possibly go wrong, right? Right? Wrong. What could possibly go wrong is more right. Thomas, proving a more-than-fine mastery of twitchy atmosphere and timing, throws every trick in the unholy book at us, with shuddering shadows and stomping feet in all the places they shouldn’t be; old ladies making dire pronouncements and skeletons snapping; toenails contort. Old videotapes and candles flicker, quiver, and shake. The Vigil‘s a haunted house tale of the mind, where every creak comes from an un-sturdy sanity, splintering under foot. The weight of living’s a lot, day to day — some of us can barely stand it. Just wait til it’s tested and see.
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The Vigil is available on demand Friday, February 26.