For a horror film about the terror of demonic possession, Gabriel Bier Gislason’s feature-film debut is unexpectedly charming. Having fallen in love after an adorable meet-cute, Danish has-been performer Maja (Josephine Park) impulsively moves in with Jewish academic Leah (Ellie Kendrick), who suffers from a mysterious injury. Their romance is watched over by Leah’s ultra-Orthodox mother, Chana (The Killing’s Sofie Gråbøl), who fusses over Leah’s every need with an insistence that borders on possessiveness.
The awkward interactions that spring out of this clash between an overbearing parent and a gentile outsider are portrayed with that entertaining dry humour of classic Jewish comedy, yet there are also darker forces at play. As Maja bumbles through a series of cultural faux-pas – imagine frying bacon for your Jewish hookup! – she also comes across strange clues, like small piles of salt strategically sprinkled around Leah’s flat. Is Chana actually nursing Leah back to health or is she manipulating her daughter through black magic?
The deftness with which Gislason balances the conventions of the comedy of manners with the paranoia of navigating a closed community makes Attachment especially compelling. There’s an emotionally complex performance from Gråbøl, and David Dencik is also hugely charismatic as Leah’s uncle Lev, as hilariously deadpan as he is enigmatic.
Compared to the engaging script, which is steeped in Jewish folklore and superstitions surrounding malicious spirits called dybbuks, the visuals are flatter and generic: some indoor sequences have such low lighting that it’s difficult to make out what’s happening. Still, the refreshing – and rare – blend of Jewish humour and horror makes Attachment a fun Valentine’s Day watch for those who like their queer romance with a sprinkle of spooky chill.
• Attachment is available on Shudder.