ATTACHMENT movie poster | ©2023 Shudder

ATTACHMENT movie poster | ©2023 Shudder

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Josephine Park, Ellie Kendrick, Sofie Gråbøl, David Dencik
Writer: Gabriel Bier Gislason
Director: Gabriel Bier Gislason
Distributor: Shudder
Release Date: February 9, 2023 (Shudder)

From movies like THE EXORCIST to THE CONJURING franchise to this week’s release CONSECRATION, Catholicism still gets the lion’s share of horror movie attention.

However, with 2012’s THE POSSESSION, 2021’s THE VIGIL, and this year’s THE OFFERING, among others, Jewish lore is getting some screen time, too.

ATTACHMENT (NATTEN HAR BJINE), directed and written by Gabriel Bier Gislason, is the newest entry in this horror subgenre. It’s a slow burn, but a potent one. And, to paraphrase the adage about what happens when a gun is introduced in the first act, once somebody starts talking about a dybbuk (the spirit of a dead person who possesses the living), we can be confident it will manifest by the third act.

ATTACHMENT is also an unexpectedly charming lesbian love story. Danish ex-TV star Maja (Josephine Park) is now doing readings for children at the public library. Here she very literally runs into Leah (Ellie Kendrick, who played Meera Reed in GAME OF THRONES).

Leah is an English art student visiting Denmark for research. The two women are instantly smitten with one another. They fall into bed the first day, and in love soon afterwards.

But Leah has a seizure and breaks her leg. Maja decides to accompany Leah back to London, where Leah lives in one half of a duplex, with her mother Chana (Sofie Gråbøl) in the other,

Chana is a curious case. Although she lives in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, she is perhaps not so much religious as she is superstitious. There seem to be wards and talismans in hidden all over Leah’s home; we are not immediately shown Chana’s living space.

Chana is both protective and possessive of her daughter. Although Chana is also Danish, she discourages Maja from speaking their shared language in front of Leah, say it is rude. While Chana is far from welcoming to Maja, she is polite, and never says a word about the newcomer sharing a bed with Leah. Indeed, we get a sense that Maja’s gender may be a bonus in this situation.

We also meet Lev (David Dencik), brother of Chana’s vanished husband. Lev is a dealer in rare books who is sympathetic to Maja’s curiosity, but feels he can only help her to a point. Meanwhile, Maja is hearing strange scratching noises in the night, but neither Leah nor Chana appear to notice.

ATTACHMENT is one of those movies that has us guessing who is really doing what, and why. Maja is our proxy, asking reasonable questions of odd-seeming traditions.

What filmmaker Gislason and performers Park and Kendrick do especially well is suffuse the relationship between Maja and Leah, and thus ATTACHMENT itself, with great warmth. We believe in them as a fledging couple, because their affection for one another seems so real.

Gislason and Gråbøl likewise persuade us of Chana’s all-consuming love for her child. Gråbøl and Kendrick play the mother/daughter dynamic with an intuitive connection that will be familiar to some viewers who have seen this in life.

All of this makes us care what’s happening in ATTACHMENT. The scares are for the most part subtle but effective, and the mythology is consistently engaging. (We learn why it is considered dangerous to leave a book lying open.) The stakes, therefore, feel increasingly high until we arrive at the carefully-crafted climax.

In English, Danish, Yiddish, and Hebrew.

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