Movie Review: ‘The Vigil’ Is Brilliant And Scary As Hell

February 21, 2021

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email:


I grabbed a handful of Slim Jims and slid on my comfy pants and settled in to watch The Vigil, what I assumed would be your run-of-the-mill horror movie. Boy, I was wrong.
The film centers on Yakov Ronen (Dave Davis), a man struggling with mental illness and overwhelming guilt for not being able to protect his little brother. Yakov has recently left the Jewish Orthodox Church and is trying to find his way in life. He’s approached by an old friend and is offered a job for the night, as a shomer which requires him to guard a dead body and protect it from evil spirits at the Litvak home. Desperate for cash he says yes, not knowing that it will be the most terrifying night of his life and one that will change him forever.
Writer-director Keith Thomas makes one hell of a directorial debut with The Vigil. If he set out to make a horror film set within the Jewish community that would be both scary and respectful, he nailed it. He somehow balances telling a frightful tale while introducing viewers to elements of religion we may not be familiar with. If this is the kind of movie we can expect from Thomas, well, I think we are going to see him do big, amazing things. I can’t wait to see what he delivers next!
Dave Davis did an absolutely phenomenal job as Yakov, our lead character, who comes off as a down on his luck man struggling with soul-crushing guilt and depression. Davis made the character feel real and captured his emotions so well, never going overboard or downplaying the character and his struggle. Casting could not have been better for both Yakov and Mrs. Litvak (Lynn Cohen). The way that Mrs. Litak bounces between a sweet old lady with Dementia and a creepy AF is nuts! The character building and development are truly great. We really get to know these two as well as the man lying dead on the table in the living room of the dark, dusty, and cobweb-covered house. I swear I could almost smell the mothballs.
The demon in this movie is something fresh. It’s one nasty critter and the design is fantastic, it’s simple but it is effective as hell. Speaking of special effects, the movie is not filled to the brim with huge events, many are subtle, but when they do go big, they make one hell of an impact, like a punch to the gut. Another thing I really appreciate about this movie is that much of the tension is built simply, almost elegantly,  it’s completely unnerving.
I urge you to pay close attention to the sounds and score. They do so much to influence the film and the emotions you feel. Listen for the ticking clock.
Besides being scary as hell, the film looks great. The cinematography is incredible, giving the film a rich look and smooth movement. The shadows of the house are used expertly to add to the suspense as well as acting as a veil to control how much we see. Sometimes less is more and director Keith Thomas recognizes that.
The Vigil has fantastic pacing. The story takes time to unfold, pulling you in and putting you on the edge of your seat, and does so without dragging out or rushing the story, a hard thing to balance.
The story is steeped in Jewish legend and lore, but don’t worry if you find yourself lacking knowledge about their rites or mythology, the film walks you through everything that you need to know and more.
I could sit here all day and talk about how much I love The Vigil, and I do, but here’s what you really need to know,  The Vigil is brilliant and unique and it is spooky as hell! It will leave you feeling uneasy, and ready to say a little prayer. It’s everything a good horror movie should be.  I can already guarantee that you will find The Vigil on our “Top 10 of 2021” list come December. Yeah, it’s that good.
IFC Midnight will unleash The Vigil in select theaters as well as on Digital and VOD on February 26, 2021. Do yourself a favor and watch it, then come tell us your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook. Be sure to check out our interview with writer-director Keith Thomas and Dave Davis, the star of the film who gives us an inside look at the film and how it came to be.

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