‘Attachment’ Taps Into Jewish Mysticism But Still Feels Restricted
Coming to Shudder
The world is vastly deprived of original Jewish horror and director Gabriel Bier Gislason works to remedy that in his debut feature Attachment. The film does well for its respectful depictions of Jewish mysticism, which is established rather firmly. By allowing the fantastical elements of the Kabbalah to flourish in the space horror provides, Gislason’s reverence to the filmic treatment of Judaism creates a natural separation between that which amplifies the story and a sense of what a devout follower can believe. Although it succeeds in bringing a different fundamental religious background to the heavy tilt of Catholic/Christian iconographies in horror, its only other marked success is just that of competent direction.
Attachment is about a Danish actor who still rides on the success of a now-ended show who meets a British woman visiting Denmark on a holiday. The two end up going out together and after a fateful date, decide to spend more time with each other. But after a missed flight health problems emerge for Leah, the visiting fling for actor Maja. Throughout the film’s first act Attachment could very well stay within the realm of romantic comedy for the whole duration and the feeling of immobility is at its strongest here. At the start it seems unlikely that a story with this setup would or could end firmly in horror. Perhaps what works so well with the film’s direction is the way it seamlessly ushers in new treatments of scenarios we attribute to other genre films. As the first act here feels like a rom-com who would dare wrench it from its tried-and-true formula to serve a narrative that would betray the trappings of light-hearted stories of love and comedy?
As Leah returns home to her mother and rests in her care after a frightening seizure, Maja decides to leave Denmark to stay with her as well. The more time Maja spends with Leah and her eccentric mother Chana, the more she suspects something sinister goes on under her nose. She begins to investigate the mystic practices she perceives within Leah and Chana’s apartment and discovers that there is something she’s missing after all. From then on Attachment sheds its romantic gayety for something darker and indescribably more sinister. But the changing topography of genre here and the surprising lack of adapted Jewish myths and horrors finally getting its due aren’t enough to create something fully compelling or totally memorable.
The film’s photography has a rudimentary, flat approach that in most cases detract from the rich history it attempts to build on. Shots are flat and lack a certain depth but some details give the eye something to chew on, if not sporadically. The film’s intensity plateaus before the third act approaches, despite how clearly the stakes continue to rise as we approach the climax. Tension is well-exercised in Attachment however the release of horror that follows is preoccupied with something else and comes across as partially empty. Gislason takes on a lot with his script and in trying to balance everything just right can’t quite deliver the ideal ratio of influences he clearly wants to serve and provide a thoughtful, effective horror film in the process. But his commitment to detail in chronicling Judiastic practices and mining the myths evident in the faith will no doubt transfer to other likeminded and passionate filmmakers to take on a similar approach. The film is still something to admire and will ignite the imagination but it can’t do more than what its logline confines it to.
Attachment premieres on Shudder on Thursday, February 9th.