Tag Archives: Michael Yezerski

Soundtrack Review: The Vigil (2021)

Back in February of 2021, Lakeshore Records digitally released The Vigil Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – with music by Michael Yezerski (The Tax Collector, Blindspotting). Earlier career highlights for Michael Yezerski include HBO’s Only the Dead See the End of War, his first feature film The Black Balloon (winner of 8 AFI/AACTA Awards including Best Picture), PJ Hogan’s Mental, Wolf Creek Series 2, Catching Milat, Peter Allen, the Academy Award winning animated short, The Lost Thing and his collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, The Red Tree.

Steeped in ancient Jewish lore and demonology, The Vigil is a supernatural horror film set over the course of a single evening in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood. Low on funds and having recently left his insular religious community, Yakov reluctantly accepts an offer from his former rabbi and confidante to take on the responsibility of an overnight “shomer,” fulfilling the Jewish practice of watching over the body of a deceased community member. Shortly after arriving at the recently departed’s dilapidated house to sit the vigil, Yakov begins to realize that something is very, very wrong.

Speaking about the philosophy behind the score, Yezerski said:

“As [director] Keith Thomas and I discussed, music is memory. We associate music with the best and the worst times in our lives. For The Vigil we needed to create a score that explored the malevolence of memory (both personal and cultural).” Yezerski went on further to note, “We needed massive textures that could read as both beautiful and brutal. The music attacks but also meditates on long and difficult lives. After all, what is the greater horror at play here – the supernatural or our lived reality?”

Going in, I thought I knew how The Vigil would sound, but to my surprise I was quite wrong. It’s true that like many horror film scores I’ve listened to in recent years, there’s an ongoing feeling of malevolence that pervades the entire score. But it’s how this feeling is delivered that sets The Vigil apart in my mind from recent scores in similar genres.

For example, the score’s use of the human voice (especially chanting) really emphasizes to me the story’s religious background (as it is based in Jewish folklore). That’s not something you hear in a lot of horror film scores so already the story is set apart in my mind. I also really like it because it evokes the feeling that you are around something ancient, as chanting is one of the earliest song forms in existence.

I also really like how the composer creates aural “textures” that literally make your skin crawl when you listen to them. “Lair” is an excellent example of that technique, but it really pervades most of the score if I’m honest. This is fitting as horror films, to the best of my understanding, are designed to make the viewer uncomfortable. It’s only natural that this should extend to the film’s score as well.

One final note, I also like how the music for The Vigil is full of various creaks and groans created by the instruments. It creates a similar sense of age that the chanting does, but it also gives you a sense that you’re in a space that is falling apart or in disrepair (as I understand it the film is set in a dilapidated house). This is most definitely a unique score, one that’s small but contains some powerful musical thoughts. This is yet another example of why you should never dismiss a soundtrack out of hand because it belongs to a horror film.

The Vigil Soundtrack Track List

  1. Tefillin (4:23)
  2. The Ghost, Pt. 1 (1:58)
  3. The Ghost, Pt. 2 (2:52)
  4. Past (3:15)
  5. Lair (4:25)
  6. Broken by Memories (5:08)
  7. Video Games (4:12)
  8. Behind You (3:32)
  9. Face to Face (4:12)
  10. Begin the Vigil (3:31)
  11. Ner (3:41)
  12. Echo (4:26)
  13. Sunlight (2:24)

Let me know what you think of The Vigil and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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