When someone in a movie meets a new romantic interest who describes their mum as “weird”, it can mean only one of two things: either you’re in a silly comedy and things are about to get Meet the Parents-style awkward, or you’re in for 90 deeply disturbing minutes filled with creaking floorboards and the looming threat of murder.
Gabriel Bier Gislason’s creepy Attachment falls into the latter category, with former actor Maja (Josephine Park) spontaneously heading to London to spend time with her new girlfriend Leah (Game of Thrones‘ Meera Reed) after they have a meet-cute in Denmark. The bad news? Leah’s mother Chana (The Killing‘s Sofie Gråbøl) lives in the flat below, and she’s not exactly the friendly type.
What’s Attachment about?
After heading to London to stay with Leah, Maja quickly realises something strange is going on. Chana alternates between cold and actively hostile, there are inexplicable noises in the flat at night, and she discovers strange trinkets hidden beneath the furniture, scrolls tucked into walls.
But Chana is also religious, and a trip into the local community leads Maja to meet Leah’s uncle Lev (David Dencik), who introduces her to the world of Jewish mysticism and the demons and superstitions Chana may or may not be involved with.
The film explores Jewish folklore.
Attachment isn’t the first horror movie to focus on Jewish folklore. Both the 2012 film The Possession and 2018’s The Golem were rooted in Jewish legends, too. But Gislason’s chiller marks an effectively unnerving contribution to the subgenre, with a book about the Sitra Achra (“It means the other side,” explains Lev) acting as the focal point around which the various creepy happenings take place. Maja is soon learning about golems and dybbuks and — crucially — witches, with it looking increasingly likely that Chana may be involved in the dark arts. These moments with Lev guiding Maja through the Sitra Achra’s dusty pages make for an interesting insight into folklore that isn’t commonly explored in horror, and it felt like there could have been even more of this in the film.
Attachment is a story in which nothing is quite what it seems, and in exploring Jewish mysticism Gislason’s script does an effective job of misdirecting us. It also artfully builds tension, both in Maja’s clipped exchanges with Chana and her late night wanderings through the ever-creaking flat. The movie differs from your average horror in that there aren’t that many release points — the jump scares are few and far between, which means the tension has nowhere to go but up.
Attachment is a disturbing film about love.
At the centre of the movie are the performances from Park, Reed, and Gråbøl, each of whom is excellent in their own way. Park is the outsider struggling to get to grips with a new culture and a strange new family; Reed is the outwardly normal girl who’s uncomfortably tethered to her roots by her controlling mother; and as Chana, Gråbøl moves seamlessly between overbearing and vulnerable, passive aggressive and downright unnerving.
At the centre of these performances is the question of love, and how far you’d go to protect someone. Attachment offers up an answer in the end — but by the time we get there, the questions have all been twisted out of shape.
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