Dating is hard, and in laws can be even a bigger challenge. The latest Shudder original film Attachment delves into this issue, with a dark, supernatural twist. It’s definitely more a slowburn, but it’s a compelling character drama that goes full horror and has a great emotional payoff.
In Denmark, up and coming actress Maja meets a college student named Leah, and the two begin a romantic relationship. Things are going well for their budding romance until Leah has a seizure, prompting her to return home to London and bring Maja along with her.
Maja is now staying with Leah and her overbearing mother Chana in an arrangement that is far from ideal for anyone. There’s an obvious awkwardness between Maja, who hasn’t been dating Leah for too long and Chana, who knows her daughter better than anyone and has to immediately adapt to a stranger living with them.
There’s a lot of tension right from the beginning, which is very much the point. The whole thing feels like a stage play with its limited settings and character beats, and it features a trio of great performances. Josephine Park (Maja) serves as the audience surrogate, feeling every bit as uncomfortable in this setting as we are, especially given that Chana seems to have no boundaries, because she often still treats her daughter like a child.
But we also have to give credit to Sofie Gråbøl (Chana) for the way she effectively plays cold and distant, while also being caring and concerning. It’s very clear that she’s conflicted and we come to find that she knows a lot more than she lets on. And the more we see things unravel, the more we see that she doesn’t hate Maja just for the sake of doing so, she’s terrified of something far more dangerous and terrifying.
Dybbuks and Demons
We see early on that Leah comes from a Jewish family and she mentions that her mother Chana was more “casual” when she was younger, but has gone further towards Orthodox. Leah’s own uncle runs a shop, specializing in Jewish literature, and it’s there that Maja frequents and begins to learn not just about Judaism, but about Kabbalah, aka Jewish mysticism.
Writer/Director Gabriel Bier Gislason (who is Jewish himself) stated that his goal wasn’t to be 100% accurate or do a deep dive into Judaism itself. Rather, he wanted to craft a character-driven horror film that was based on the fringes of Jewish folklore. Essentially, it’s a possession story, but viewed through a Jewish perspective and ritual.
And given that possession/exorcism horror vastly over represents Catholic rituals and perspectives, it’s refreshing to get another take on it. Other than 2009’s The Unborn and 2012’s The Possession, there aren’t very many mainstream horror films that deal with dybbuks. Whereas there are countless exorcism movies that feature Catholic priests saving the day.
When Attachment goes full horror, it’s genuinely creepy and well made. And while it’s never a bad idea to take your time and develop your characters, this movie waits a little too long for that to happen. The seeds are sown early on, but its full shift from character drama to supernatural horror really only takes hold on for the last 30 minutes in a movie that’s nearly two hours.
The first hour and 15 minutes are by no means dull or boring. But for Shudder’s audience expecting more of a horror film, it might have done the movie better to add more of that tone and vibe earlier on. It’s by no means a bad movie, but it will likely lose a lot of horror fans who spend over an hour waiting for the horror to actually start.
What did you think of Attachment? Let us know in the comments!
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