Premiering in Austin for Fantastic Fest 2022 and now streaming on Shudder is Danish director Gabriel Gislason’s supernatural-horror full length debut, Attachment. Studying for a short period in Denmark, naïve and innocent Leah (played by Ellie Kendrick) meets Maja (Josephine Park) during her shift at a bookstore. Endearingly dressed as an elf reading Christmas stories to children, the two spark a connection and spend Leah’s last weekend in town together. After enduring a traumatic seizure right before her early morning flight, Maja decides to return to her lover’s home in England, only to be greeted by Chana (Sofie Gråbøl), Leah’s overbearing and critical mother. Incorporating elements of Jewish folklore, the film utilizes aspects within the genre that have rarely been touched, yet the outcome falls flat and underwhelming throughout its entirety.
Examining themes of religious mysticism, queer relationships and maternal bonding, Attachment reveals the deeply embodied roots of Judaism and ascribes them to a quiet dread that lays within the film’s Hasidic community of London. Superstitions are widely believed as Chana’s only acts of kindness seems to be offering Maja objects to help ward off Dybbuks – not quite described as ghosts or demons, but as evil spirits known to embody the souls of the living. What is initially mistaken as seizures and sleepwalking in Leah instead comes to divulge itself as a dark possession that arises to the surface any time she strays too far from home or the protection of her mother. Incorporating ominous music keeps the film’s pacing to a slow burn rather than relying on obvious jump scares, lending Attachment a restrained yet menacing anticipation. The protagonist’s cultural backgrounds also add to Gislason’s interesting assimilation of language, religion and understanding between all three women, sometimes bouncing from English to Danish to German within one conversation.
While merging supernatural horror and drama genres works for Gabriel Gislason's piece in some ways, the flippant romance and attempts at comedic relief do not merge together well. Leah’s mousy ways inevitably make her demonic-possessed demeanor unconvincing and the initial premise of Maja falling head over heels and moving to London for an infatuation after a 48 hour affair are shaky in its foundation. Understanding that this is meant to be a passionate attachment of its own, the film’s disjointed, abrupt scenes and attempts at conveying a whirlwind romance are fairly uncompelling. While I did enjoy the conversations regarding Jewish folklore and beliefs, they often felt like explanations rather than smoothly embedded as an additional layer to the film. Paying obvious tribute to classic occult horror films like The Exorcist, Attachment unfortunately deflates due to its mediocre cast as well as its subdued climax.