More suspenseful and claustrophobic than a horror movie
When he is Baby Shiva, an extremely awkward comedy-drama about a young woman who meets her ex-girlfriend and her sugar daddy in the same shiva (Jewish wake).
It sounds like setting up a classic error comedy, but writer and director Emma Seligman has imbued her film with so much terror, tension and claustrophobia, Baby Shiva is as mortifying as anything that presents a supernatural threat.
From the suspenseful string composition of its soundtrack to nauseating close-ups and increasingly saturated lighting, Baby Shiva is a master stroke in how to use conventions of a different genre to compose the issues of another.
It’ll make you viscerally nauseous, the kind of stomach-ache feeling that getting up and out of the room won’t even shake.
This is a good thing Baby Shiva is only 78 minutes because longer and you may pass out because of its suffocating tone – only metaphorically, of course.
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Graduating college student Danielle (Rachel Sennott) has a side job as a “sugar baby,” in which the older, richer man Max (Danny Deferrari) pays her for sex in his. spacious Manhattan loft.
Later that day, Danielle meets her parents Debbie (Polly Draper) and Joel (Fred Melamed) outside a shiva for a family acquaintance.
First, Danielle is surprised to see her ex-girlfriend Maya (Molly Gordon) present, but she is pale when a familiar face talks to her father among the crowded suburban home quarters – it’s Max .
The shiva soon becomes a prison with a billion guards, and Danielle their victim of torture. Every time she turns around, there’s a family friend who asks if she’s eating enough, what she’s planning to do after college, or who she’s seeing.
Her parents shamelessly try to network her for a job or an internship, while Maya’s mother plays a game of one-upmanship that would make any Zen person explode with anxiety.
Just to mix up the metaphors, it’s like everyone’s a zombie and they all want a piece of her, feeding off the promise of her youth with their disapproval, passive aggression, and micro-aggression. And there is no promise of release.
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Seligman’s use of sound and space to create this horror is a wonder to behold. A crying baby’s perfectly timed howls are like a cat scratching at a board in your head as the subtly stunning camera makes the walls seem like they are literally closing in on Danielle.
The performances are all perfectly calibrated to stress you out, each being the equivalent of your most annoying uncle with no sense of limits.
At the heart of the story is also the story of a young woman who navigates this liminal age where she clearly feels like she wants to assert her own desires – and to make her own mistakes – but where her parents helicopters and his community infantilizes him out of love. and care.
And it is the basis of these themes that makes it deeply uncomfortable Baby Shiva all the more effective, because it might be extreme, but the understated relatability of Danielle’s terrible day is why Baby Shiva is scarier than a horror movie.
Shiva Baby is now in theaters (except for Greater Sydney)
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