The latest Blumhouse release is a departure, known largely for their audience-pleasing efforts like The Conjuring and Annabelle films. Not that The Vigil isn’t pleasing, but it’s a divisive affair. It will work for viewers who want to take a chance on something different, however it is so specialised that a large contingent will most likely stay away.
For the more adventurous audience members taking a journey into a community that possibly won’t be familiar to them, it is an eye opener, and will be of interest. The Hasidic Jewish people are the focus, and we learn about how their dead are protected throughout the night of their passing. As they are let go, a member of the family or (if no family member is available) paid helper sits with the body and prayers are spoken until the morning light.
Our main character is employed for this event, and the setting is almost entirely this house, which is both a blessing and a curse. It makes the film claustrophobic and tight, but also maybe a little constricting for some. It’s not a fun film and the material is not exactly original. We have seen people battling with their demons of the past, and events based around buried guilt, over and over again. So although the world we are invited into is maybe something not seen before, the subject matter feels a little tired. Which is a shame as the actor playing Yakov Ronen, the protagonist, portrays his pain and internal shame with an intensity that is most welcome.
It all builds up to a satisfying ending that provides redemption, and we feel Yakov has turned his life around through these nightmarish events. The experience is played out nicely as a demon tests him and stretches him to breaking point; you do in fact want our hero to survive and be a new man by the end. There are some pleasing comparison points to The Exorcist films, but the Jewish twist makes it feel like its own animal.
If you fancy feeling trapped in a room with one man losing his mind, then this is the one for you.
The Vigil will be released in cinemas across the UK and Ireland on Friday 17th July 2020