A New Horror Film’s Surprisingly Sensitive Treatment of Hasidic Life https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/arts-culture/2023/02/a-new-horror-films-surprisingly-sensitive-treatment-of-hasidic-life/

February 8, 2023 | Chaya Sara Oppenheim
About the author:

Based on a now-obscure bit of Jewish (and Near Eastern) lore about a demon named Abyzou, the horror movie The Offering has as its central characters an American ḥasidic family. Chaya Sara Oppenheim notes in her review that—unlike so many cinematic and television portraits of Ḥaredim—this one is both sympathetic and attuned to the nuances of Orthodox life:

Saul Feinberg (Allan Corduner), the ḥasidic owner of a funeral home in the heart of Brooklyn, asks his irreligious son Arthur (Nick Blood) to assist in the preparation of a dead body. The deceased is an older man named Yossile (Anton Trendafilov), who died sealing a demon in his own body. Unbeknownst to the Feinbergs, the evil spirit is about to be set free.

For the observant Jewish viewer, The Offering delivers an added layer of nuance concealed in an otherwise commercial horror movie. After lighting the Sabbath candles in front of a framed photograph of his late wife, Saul explains to [Arthur’s Gentile wife] Claire that men sing to their wives every Friday night, lauding the women for their inner beauty. “We’re a very misunderstood people,” he says. “It’s the burden of investing so much in internal meaning. It’s hard for outsiders to see.”

Saul’s statement is more than a reference to the often-misconstrued portrayal of Ḥasidim in contemporary media. The film is replete with pregnant allusions founded on the kabbalistic premises that guide ḥasidic life and place importance on the inner depths of our worldly realm. It is no coincidence that the Feinberg family sits down to eat kreplach—dumplings traditionally eaten before Yom Kippur as a meditation on our outer and inner selves before our fates are sealed. In another pivotal scene, a dark shadow sweeps the hallway, and the mezuzah on the doorpost breaks violently in half—a signal that the holy parchment enclosed in the wooden case has been compromised and the spiritual protection over the house has disappeared.

Read more on Moment: https://momentmag.com/blending-horror-and-hasidism/