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Movie Review: Love Conquers All – Even Demons – In Shudder’s “ATTACHMENT”

Monday, February 13, 2023 | Reviews


Starring Josephine Park, Ellie Kendrick, Sofie Gråbøl
Written and Directed by Gabriel Bier Gislason
Nordisk Film Production | Shudder Original

While the possession and exorcism sub-genre of horror may be incredibly oversaturated by the exploits of Catholic priests, by sourcing its demonic possession mythology from Jewish folklore, Gabriel Bier Gislason’s debut feature ATTACHMENT breathes new life into the staple of supernatural horror. Written for lead actress Josephine Park, and loosely inspired by tales of her life, ATTACHMENT is also a complex and nuanced love story between two women of vastly different cultural backgrounds. 

Maja (Park) is a Danish former actress, who makes her living by reprising her most famous role as a Christmas elf to read stories to children and host other such meet and greet events. Leah (Kendrick) is a British academic visiting Denmark, the birthplace of her mother (Gråbøl), a devout Jewish woman who keeps Leah on a tight leash. Maja and Leah form an attachment at the very first glance – and are immediately able to recognize their shared queer identity within one another. They fall hard and they fall fast, as lesbian couples tend to, earning ATTACHMENT the affectionate designation of “U-haul horror.” When Maja invites Leah to stay with her in Denmark, it appears our two heroines will live happily ever after.

However, after Leah breaks her leg during a violent seizure, she and Maja travel to the UK so that Leah can recover in the care of her mother, Chana. Chana lives in the flat below Leah’s, and the couple struggles to adjust to Chana’s constant intrusions into their space at private moments. Gislason’s script understands the subtleties of queer love and relationships, but also the tension that can come to exist between a queer individual and the parent(s) of their same-sex partner. Maja struggles to find her place in Leah’s life with Chana around and seeks guidance from Lev (David Dencik), a family friend and the owner of a Hasidic bookstore that Maja begins to frequent. Through Lev, Maja is introduced to the supernatural entities of Yiddish folklore, including the dybbuk, a ghostly presence that clings to the souls of the living. 

“Dybbuk,” from the Hebrew for “adhere” or “cling,” literally translates to “a case of attachment.” As Maja soon discovers, a dybbuk may very well be haunting Leah and her mother, leading Maja to uncover a few of Chana’s dark secrets. When Maja begins to fear for Leah’s safety, relocating her to a remote cabin where the two women can live out from under Chana’s watchful eye, the dybbuk makes itself known. Escalating to a conclusion that is equally terrifying and heartwarming, ATTACHMENT sees Maja and Leah learn the true meaning of becoming family and what it means to sacrifice for someone you love. 

A first-time feature director based in Denmark, Gabriel Bier Gislason’s gentle and intimate filmmaking style lends an element of realism to ATTACHMENT that is absent in most supernatural horror of its kind. The film’s four leads deliver tender performances with a great deal of emotional depth and demonstrate a dedication to portraying the UK’s Orthodox Jewish community with both deep respect and a lighthearted sense of humor. ATTACHMENT is not only a breath of fresh air as a horror film but as a queer love story as well. Releasing just in time for Valentine’s Day, the film perfectly balances its romance and horror so as to catch the viewer’s expectations off guard, and delivers a one-of-a-kind story that pushes the boundaries of what a possession film can be. 

ATTACHMENT is available to stream on Shudder as of February 9, 2023. 

Grace Detwiler
Grace Detwiler (@finalgirlgrace) is a freelance film journalist and law student. Her original work can be found on her blog, FinalGirlGrace, as well as in Rue Morgue's print and online publications.