And like most of the smart and hyper-efficient horror films before it Keith Thomas' shudder-inducing The Vigil knows all of the above, and melts it down into the metaphor of terrifying movie stuff. He's aided by some good old-fashioned folklore, here of the Jewish variety, as the tale he spins centers in on a lapsed Orthodox fella by the name of Yakov (Dave Davis) who, in dire need of fast cash, steps back for a single night into the religious fold he'd abandoned due to a test of faith, to sit shomer over a recently deceased.
All that means is he needs to watch over the body. Just some old man. Big pay day. The body's barely cold by the time he gets there. No big whoop. Overnight. Dead body. In the dark. With a dead body. What could possibly go wrong, right? Right? Wrong. What could possibly go wrong is more right. Thomas, proving a more-than-fine mastery of twitchy atmosphere and timing, throws every trick in the unholy book at us, with shuddering shadows and stomping feet in all the places they shouldn't be; old ladies making dire pronouncements and skeletons snapping; toenails contort. Old videotapes and candles flicker, quiver, and shake. The Vigil's a haunted house tale of the mind, where every creak comes from an un-sturdy sanity, splintering under foot. The weight of living's a lot, day to day -- some of us can barely stand it. Just wait til it's tested and see.
And that's day to day -- try century to century sometime. Like any folk-horror worth its weight in gelt The Vigil stretches back towards the past, just like the face of its twisted turnip-fingered monster, opening with a flashback reminiscent of the nightmare scene that opens the Coen Bros 2009 masterpiece A Serious Man (and the connection's taken even further with an exquisitely placed Fred Melamed voice cameo, for the Coen nerds in the back). Dybbuks abound. The past, as the saying goes, is never really past -- it's a'nibblin' on your broom, baby.