Let’s start this review off by letting you know I won’t waste your time trying to explain any of the religious aspects in this movie, of which there is plenty. I’m not Jewish (I’m not anything to be perfectly honest with you), so I do not know much besides the basic understanding of what a Shomer does. Lucky for you, if you’re like me, you don’t need to know anything when diving into The Vigil, as the film does enough at the beginning to explain. There is a spot near the end where I was completely lost, but I’ll get to that in a short time. For now, let’s see what The Vigil is all about and whether it’s worth your time…
The film starts with Yakov (Dave Davis) attending a meeting with other people that have left the Orthodox Jewish community. We find out he is struggling with all sorts of past trauma and is finding it hard to make a living on the little money that he has. Because of these financial woes, he decides to take a job as a Shomer, a person who watches over the recently deceased throughout the night. Of course, this wouldn’t be a horror movie without a proper spooky setting, and the concept of a vigil is already scary enough, having to hang out with a dead body all night, mostly alone save for the deceased’s man’s wife, who is suffering from dementia. It doesn’t take long before all sorts of creepy stuff start happening, and we find out that the man under the sheet was being haunted by something evil that feeds on your guilt, of which Yakov has plenty.
The Vigil wisely chooses to slowly ratchet the tension up over its scant 90-minute runtime. It uses the dark setting to great effect, with lots of long shots peering into the darkness, just waiting for something to jump out and scare the audience. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, you’ll be guaranteed to jump off your seat a bit. Of course, we all know the jump scare is a cheap tactic, and director Keith Thomas keeps those to a minimum and instead uses spooky sound design and a fear of the unknown to keep your palms sweaty.
As I mentioned above, there is a moment near the end of the film where the main character dons some interesting-looking gear to help in his battle against the supernatural. I have zero clue what the gear does or what it means, and the film doesn’t bother to explain that to you. However, I wouldn’t count my ignorance as a negative towards the film, as I’m sure some people probably watch Christian horror films and wonder what the hell they are doing half the time during an exorcism.
Raven Banner has released The Vigil on Blu-ray, and what can be said about a newer movie in regards to video quality? The film takes place mainly at nighttime, and the video quality does a serviceable enough job to not go to crap in the shadows, keeping blacks consistent save for a few blocky areas here and there throughout the film. Any sort of degradation in the transfer isn’t enough to take you out of the film, thankfully. As usual at Cultpsloitation, we have done up a gallery for the Blu-ray, so you can head over there to see how the film handles all those dark scenes.
Audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD, 5.1 Dolby Digital, and 2.0 Stereo. I watched the film in 5.1 DTS-HD, and I had zero issues concerning dialogue volume or sound design. The film makes use of the rear channels a fair amount.
Extra features provided on the disc are two interviews with the director, one at TIFF Midnight Madness and the other over a zoom chat with Raven Banner. Both interviews are interesting and provide a good amount of information on the making of The Vigil. We have a short film from Keith Thomas titled Arkane, which runs 8-mins long, and finally, a spattering of trailers for other Raven Banner releases. Nice to see some features on the release, as the US release from Shout Factory only included a trailer.
Very Limited (500) O-Card designed by Joshua Yosurack
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 Dolby Digital, 2.0 Dolby Stereo
English SDH and Captions
TIFF Midnight Madness Interview with director Keith Thomas (SD, 18:04)
Raven Banner Zoom Interview with director Keith Thomas (SD, 31:04)
Keith Thomas’ short film Arkane (HD, 8:00)
- The Vigil (HD, 1:33)
- For the Sake of Vicious (HD, 1:48)
- Nail in the Coffin (HD, 2:07)
- Psycho Goreman (HD, 1:53)
- Spare Parts (HD, 1:31)
- Come True (HD, 2:05)
I enjoyed The Vigil. Any horror film that takes its time setting up a creepy situation and doesn’t shove jump scares in your face every five minutes is A-OK in my book. Sure, there are some things that I would have liked to see expanded on, but none of it was enough to make me not recommend the film. Raven Banner has released a really solid Blu-ray with some nice special features and a fancy limited slipcover.