Anyone who knows me knows that I am an advocate for directors who want to express their vision and take a swing for the fences. Gabriel Bier Gislason has jumped ship from shorts to features with Attachment, and while exploring Jewish folklore in a horror sense typically delivers some exquisite results, Attachment might be too deeply attached to its subplot of gender identity and loving whom one loves compared to its ideology and concept of demons and possession. While the subplot is almost more engaging than the main plot itself, both lend themselves to engaging storytelling but both aspects have also been done before in a more engaging depth.
Gislason, in theory, wanted to make a cross between Disobedience (2017) and The Vigil (2019) and somehow created a story that encapsulates both of those concepts but misses the mark on both fronts. It is an LGBTQ+ story with Jewish folklore that touches on themes and concepts of both sides. While it wasn’t a matter of acceptance, the resistance of acceptance was from a much darker and sinister reason. Attachment feels like it was a short film that Gislason had bouncing around in his head that he fleshed out into a full-fledged feature with unfortunately mixed results.
The film focuses on Maja (Josephine Park) and Leah (Ellie Kendrick) as they kick off their romance, and things start off incredibly well until they go horribly wrong. One night, seemingly out of nowhere, Leah suffers a horrifying seizure and causes an injury. They collectively make the decision to return to Leah’s home for some additional help to take care of Leah. Upon returning home, Maja has the unfortunate pleasure of being burdened and surrounded by Leah’s overbearing mother, Chana (Sofie Grabol) as things begin to become more sinister and creepier as their time there goes on.
What first appeared to just be an overbearing mother protecting her daughter, and maybe being hesitant about her daughter’s love life choices, seemed to be the most tense and uncomfortable situation created in Attachment. But it turns out the be the least of the audience’s concerns. The unsettling nature and the ideology of a demon, specifically a dybbuk,
in the world that the audience finds themselves in as Chana catches Maja looking around the house at the replicas and jewelry of Jewish protection ware and antiquities Chana has become much more prevalent.
While the performances from Sofie Grabol (Night Watch), Josephine Park (The Investigation), and Ellie Kendrick (Cheerful Weather for the Wedding) see the actors delivering their all, they struggle to connect with the script. When creating a world of demons and folklore, to not have the otherworldly truly make an appearance or take charge in some shape or form means you have to deliver something engaging enough by words only. While Chana tries to hide the existence of the dybbuk, it is Leah who eventually figures out that one exists and then the true horrors start to unfold, but instead of unwrapping the present fully, we just get a tear in the wrapping paper.
Attachment boasts some strong performances that create a world of intensity and uneasiness with their acting abilities, but it is the ambiguity and it becoming uncovered a little too late that keeps it from sticking to the audience as something truly satisfying to conclude with. A third act that should have induced anxiety and fear with some genuine edge-of-your-seat revelations leaves audiences with a whimper and an underwhelming sigh of disappointment. While audiences don’t receive the nail-biting demon-spawning folklore horror they may have been expecting and even wanting, the performances throughout Attachment are more than enough to keep the audience engaged until the anticlimactic ending.
Available to stream on Shudder beginning February 9th, 2023.
Final Score: 2.5 out of 5.
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