Tag Archives: Dave Davis

Work Trip


by Rachel Willis

Writer/director Christian Schultz, along with co-writer Peter Ambrosio, attempts to weave together a story of a woman haunted by darkness in his film, Presence.

The movie opens with Jen (Jenna Lyng Adams) pacing in her bedroom on a dark and stormy night. We see from her computer messages she’s been trying to contact someone named Sam (Alexandria DeBerry) for three weeks. A quick flashback lets us know Sam is a friend from New York who is essential in Jen’s life.

Sam’s disappearance weighs heavily on Jen, and it’s in this desperation for information that we get our first inklings of suspense. However, the strangeness of the film’s opening gives way to something more mundane. Despite its initial creepiness, most of the film offers a mishmash of ineffective hallucinatory moments and scenes of dull dinner table conversation.

Sam reappears to tell Jen she has found them a business partner, David (Dave Davis), to fund their venture. It’s not entirely clear what Jen and Sam do, but it seems that they create and design… zippers. Sam wants Jen to meet David, and the opportunity for this comes on board David’s yacht. Along with a small crew, the characters set sail for David’s factory in Puerto Rico where they will sign a business deal.

There is a lot left unsaid, but not in the subtle way that hints at something sinister. Instead, it suggests the writers had only a basic idea of how to get these three people in a secluded location and then ran with it. That it leaves us to get lost in a sea of questions that don’t really matter to the overall plot but are distracting nonetheless.

This lack of satisfactory backstory is telling for the movie overall. A lot of little pieces of information never connect. Some of it is unimportant, while other bits should have been expanded upon. If some of the unnecessary issues had been dumped, it would have left room for deeper exploration of what exactly is haunting Jen. The writers don’t seem to understand that general confusion does not equal tension.  

The result is that nothing much happens and there is no clarity on what exactly is going on. We end up with bones instead of flesh, and it leads to disappointment.

Up All Night

The Vigil

by Hope Madden

For the garden variety movie viewer (myself included), it can be hard to get comfortable with the idea of spending a bunch of time alone in a room with a corpse, even if that’s your job.

We always expect to see a figure sit up under that drawn sheet.

When done well, movies that pick that particular scab can be incredibly effective. Keith Thomas’s The Vigil is one such movie. He leaves us alone in a house with the late Mr. Litvak. But we’re not really alone, are we?

An endlessly tender Dave Davis plays Yakov, who has recently left the Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn. It’s so recent, in fact, that he goes to a support group of others like himself, all of them in need of some kind of training to figure out how to live a “normal” life. And as much as Yakov really does want to distance himself, when his former rabbi approaches him about Mr. Litvak, well, Yakov just needs the money.

Yakov will serve as Mr. Litvak’s shomer, sitting with the body for the night to protect Mr. Litvak’s soul until his body can be interred in the morning. Mrs. Litvak (Lynn Cohen, remarkable as always) doesn’t want him there.

It’s a straightforward enough premise, something Thomas executes with plenty of spectral dread. What the basic outline and many of the jump scares lack in originality, The Vigil makes up for with the underexplored folklore and customs specific to Orthodox Judaism. The general ideas are common to the genre, but the specific acts and images are precise and certainly new to horror cinema.

As Yakov’s night wares dangerously forward, he faces a Mazzik. But, as is usually the case in films such as these, the real demons Yakov faces are his own.

Thomas’s screenplay may present that metaphor more bluntly than necessary, and certain scenes are just so obvious (old footage projecting on a wall near a diorama of newspaper clippings and photos). But the compassion the filmmaker has for both Yakov and Mrs. Litvak, combined with the impressive performances from both actors, gives the film a soft spot that heightens the dread and terror.

It’s a solid effort, one that reframes a story you’re used to in a way that gives it more depth and emotional power.