We’re never quite sure what a vigil achieves particularly those ones in public places with groups clutching candles looking like bewildered carol singers who’ve forgotten the words to the carols. The Vigil here is somewhat different centred on the Jewish tradition of a shomer, a person who sits with the recently deceased protecting them from evil spirits. Here the shomer is Yakov (Dave Davis) a young man who struggles to reconcile himself with his loss of faith after a family tragedy for which he blames himself. Beset with these issues it’s affected his ability to form relationships and unemployed he struggles to survive on what little money he has.
His saviour comes in the shape of Reb, a rabbi at the synagogue keen to see him return to the faith and offers him some much needed money to act as an overnight shomer at the house of the recently deceased Mr Litvak until the undertakers arrive in the morning . It’s a last minute request as the previous shimmer had run from the house and when Yakov arrives at the dimly lit house late at night, the body prostrate under a thin sheet and the elderly widow warning him to leave whilst he can it’s all set to be a night to remember. Right from the start of the vigil writer director Keith Thomas frames the shot with Yakov at the front and centre with the boy lying in the background for a long time with your eye inexorably drawn to it with expectation. For many the thought of sitting beside an inanimate lifeless corpse incapable of movement is unsettling although our Editor’s wife said it was reminiscent of her honeymoon night (‘You’re fired!’- Ed) and as the house creaks and rumbles and shadows hide secrets its going to be a long night.
The Vigil draws heavily on Judaism and its traditions with Yakov trying to reassure the widow that he’s there to protect and comfort her late husband’s soul. ‘Protect it against what?’ she asks? That ‘what’ turns out to be an ancient demon preying on the weak and troubled and in that respect Yakov is a suitable candidate for possession himself and the film runs a number of effectively creepy moments in that horror staple the dark and spooky house in the middle of the night and for once the horror trope favourite – the mobile phone that has no signal at a crucial moment – is turned on its head that add to the edginess of the film. Unfortunately as a one hander the film can’t quite get round the exposition about the demon without resorting to a video film running in the basement of the house explaining the demon and his intent. Dave Davis is convincingly creeped out by the goings on and at a brief 89 minutes The Vigil almost holds the course and it would be easy to see this as a potential franchise starter.
Here’s the trailer……