Simultaneously a romcom, a horror story, and a tongue-in-cheek satire about overprotective Jewish parenting, Attachment is one of two excellent queer horror movies released by Shudder in February. While the other (Huesera: The Bone Woman) is straight-up scary, Attachment belongs more to the comedic realm, building a supernatural tale from a charmingly twee meet-cute between two women in a Danish library.
Director: Gabriel Bier Gislason
Rooted in Jewish folklore, this queer horror-comedy sees a woman unexpectedly move in with her girlfriend’s mother – an eccentric and overbearing figure who seems oddly obsessed with supernatural threats.
30-something Maja (Josephine Park) is living aimlessly in Denmark when she meets perky British grad student Leah (Ellie Kendrick). The two embark on a whirlwind romance, interrupted by Leah suffering an unexpected seizure. Maja makes the snap decision to return with Leah to her home in London—a romantic plan that soon gets awkward when they arrive at Leah’s house, which she shares with her overbearing mother Chana (Sofie Gråbøl).
Best known for her work in gritty dramas like The Killing, Gråbøl channels her trademark frown into dark humor, as Chana creates a nervewrackingly unwelcoming atmosphere for her daughter’s new girlfriend. Not only does Chana constantly invade Leah’s personal space with unwanted advice, food, and criticism, but she’s also obsessed with arcane facets of Jewish mysticism. Leah had already dropped a few hints that her mother was unusually religious, but Chana’s practices also include a persistent barrage of amulets and rituals to ward off demonic threats.
Maja puts this down to eccentricity, and Leah explains that Chana became passionately devout in an attempt to fit in with the local Orthodox community. But we, of course, can already guess that something supernatural is going on.
The religious horror genre is still overwhelmingly dominated by Christian symbolism and traditions, with The Exorcist casting a long shadow over anything related to demonic possession. Not a year goes by without multiple horror releases involving Catholic priests or nuns, whereas Jewish horror films—especially good ones—remain few and far between. (If you’re looking for more in this area, I can recommend 2019’s The Vigil.) Set in a Jewish neighborhood, rooted in Jewish folklore and with a Jewish writer/director (Gabriel Bier Gislason) at the helm, Attachment feels cheerfully confident in its own material.
While occasionally spooky and dabbling in body horror, Attachment is at its best when dealing with the conflict between the three leads—an awkward and unpredictable situation that’s often laugh-out-loud funny. If anything, the film’s supernatural elements can feel a bit lackluster by comparison, culminating in a rather conventional finale. But that’s hardly a problem when the rest is so fun to watch.