Attachment: The Year’s Most Romantic Horror?

Apparently, Shudder are making the release of a Jewish possession horror starring a former Game of Thrones actor a monthly occurrence now and based on January’s The Offering and now February’s Attachment, it’s a fairly welcome trend. Neither of these films want for creepy moments at all, but more than their religious backdrop or cast, what really unites these two films is their commendable focus on characterization and performance. The X-factor that makes both these movies work is that you really believe in their characters thanks to the great central performances.

Released in the lead-up to Valentine’s day, Attachment devotes its first act to establishing the incredibly endearing chemistry between its leads Josephine Park and Ellie Kendrick. They play Maja and Leah, a Danish former kids’ TV presenter and a visiting British student. Following their charming meet-cute the two fall hard for one another and they’re both such charming onscreen presences that it’s easy to see why. They’re one of the sweetest screen couples in recent memory. The cracks begin to arise though when Maja accompanies Leah home to London, under the roof of her superstitious and smothering mother Chana (Sofie Grabol), who Maja soon comes to believe has hidden motives for being so protective of her daughter.

Attachment doesn’t present a particularly radical reinvention of the possession tropes it operates in, but what it does do is present them in a more human context. The warmth and humor of the performances and the deadpan wit of the script gives the scenario a sense of credibility and intrigue that eludes more mundane efforts in the tradition. There’s a matter-of-fact realism to the dialogue and setting that often leaves Attachment feeling more like a romantic drama than a horror film. It is admittedly rarely actually scary, but here too, the real ace up the film’s sleeve is Ellie Kendrick, a phenomenal actor whose work in The Levelling was one of the best pieces of screen acting that the last decade produced. Her role here isn’t as intense or well written as that one, but she still demonstrates a remarkable ease and range, incredibly cute and wholesome one moment, skin-crawlingly cold and malicious the next.

Ellie Kendrick is fantastic as the haunted Leah

Park and Grabol are both excellent too, as is David Dencik, who steps into the traditional expert advisor role, investing the character with both realistic tact and an engaging sense of sardonic wit. This may only be director Gabriel Bier Gislason’s feature debut, but it sets an attention grabbing precedent for eliciting great performances from a well-chosen cast. It doesn’t have the intense Gothic atmosphere or even to be brutally honest the cleanest sense of plotting, but the consistently credible and likable performances and the writing which has a strong sense of character, personality and setting more than make up for the rather tame sense of mood.

So deep is the vein of humor in the film that lots of sites genre tag it as a comedy as well as a horror and a romance. It’s not a comedy in the true sense though, the humor exists more as an effective means of establishing personality and character, which it does very well. The chemistry between Park and Kendrick is the film’s strongest asset and the wholesome interactions between them are charged with such warmth and humor that yes, there is the spectre of romantic comedy here. One can easily imagine an alternative version of the story that’s just about the fish out of water hijinks that ensue when a Jewish woman brings her new gentile girlfriend home to meet her clingy mum. The film does hit those notes, like the Maja surprising Leah with a very non-kosher breakfast or Uncle Lev’s inability to refer to Maja as anything other than Leah’s “friend”, but they exist as the kind of incidental character detail that make the world of the film so much more recognizable and relatable.

The realism of its setting, combined with the credible and sympathetic performances make Attachment an investing viewing experience that, although it makes the possession plot almost incidental compared to more intense generic cousins, gives you an engaging story that rewards you more with unexpected heart than predictable scare scenes. Above all, it’s most successful as a film about love, the sacrifices we make for those we love and the desperate or cruel things our love can make us do. The dialogue between Chana and Maja as they discuss this very issue and briefly bond over their respective devotion to Leah is beautiful and both actors deliver it impeccably. Whatever minor issues there might be with the way the story develops and the lack of truly gripping scare scenes, Attachment has real heart and that’s more than enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Written by Hal Kitchen

Primarily a reviewer of music and films, Hal Kitchen studied at the University of Kent where they graduated with distinction in both Liberal Arts BA and Film MA, specializing in film, gender theory, and cultural studies. Whilst at Kent they were the Film & TV sub-editor and later Culture Editor of the campus newspaper InQuire and began a public blog on their Letterboxd account. Hal joined 25YearsLaterSite as a volunteer writer in May 2020 and resumed their current role of assistant film editor in November 2020.

Eva Green as Christine recoiling in terror in Nocebo (2022)

Nocebo: Predictable but Incisive Colonialist Chiller

Fr. Amorth looking concerned

The Pope’s Exorcist Trailer Previews a Creepy Supernatural Conspiracy