The Vigil — A Hasidic Horror Film Set in Brooklyn
A Jewish man gets haunted by a demon while watching over the dead.
“The Vigil” is a new Hasidic Horror film from writer/director Keith Thomas. It tells the story of a man who spends the night watching over the dead body of a deceased member of his Orthodox Jewish community, only to find himself in danger from a malevolent entity.
Jewish law requires that a dead body be watched over continuously until it is busied. In “The Vigil” Yakov Ronen, who is played by Dave Davis, takes on this job one night. He is someone who was raised orthodox, but later chose to become secular and leave the religious world behind. There is nothing new with the theme of someone “escaping” Hasidic life. Last year’s mini-series “Unorthodox” was based on the true story of a woman who did just that.
Yakov is warned off the assignment by the dead man’s widow Mrs. Litvak who is played by the late Jewish actress Lynn Cohen. After failing to heed the warning, Yaacov is terrorized throughout the night by a Jewish demon known as a Mazzik.
The movie stars Menashe Lustig as Reb Shulem. Lustig is a Hasidic Jew himself who stared in the lead role of the hit Yiddish movie from 2017 “Menashe.” It also stars Malky Goldman, a 32 year old Israeli native. Goldman was raised orthodox but left that behind when she chose to pursue an acting career.
It also features career Jewish Character actor Fred Melamed as Dr. Marvin Kohlberg.
Movie review website Rotten Tomatoes currently gives “The Vigil” an 88% rating.
The New York Times said of the film, “The unique premise marries Old World traditions and Holocaust history with present-day Hasidic Brooklyn, but the addition of technological elements is hit or miss.”
Rolling Stone said that it, “will feel like well-trod ground to anyone who’s seen a few supernatural thrillers; only the neighborhood has changed.” On Keith Thomas’ direction, the magazine said that he “knows how to fill a frame and how to make something like the film’s final shot feel clever simply via a matter of focus. (The way he utilizes specific Jewish iconography for Yakov’s final standoff is a nice touch as well.) He also seems to rely heavily on a stock arsenal of scare tactics — as well as a message about letting go of guilt, pain, and the past — that can make you feel like you’ve seen/heard this ghost story before. Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt in this case. It only makes you pine for its creator to follow a less predictable, less comfortable path.”
Keith Thomas is a graduate of New York City’s Hebrew University College with a master’s in religious education. “The Vigil” is now available on VOD.