For centuries, Lilith has captured our minds and imaginations. A figure from Jewish mythology, the lore surrounding Lilith has evolved many times. The best-known version of her story is that she was created from the same clay as the biblical Adam. She was intended to be Adam’s wife, but our girl had different ideas. She refused to be subservient and submissive and left the Garden of Eden. In some tellings, Lilith coupled with the archangel Samael and begat demon children with him; in others, the demon children were the result of Lilith seducing (or assaulting, depending on the version and translation) Adam. Some texts also seem to blame Lilith for men’s nocturnal emissions and say that demons are born from the wasted seed.
Historically, Lilith was maligned as a demon and a monster whose M.O. included harming pregnant and laboring women and infants. However…some women took comfort and drew strength from the ancient folklore of a woman who stood up for herself, rejected a domineering man, and forged her own path. American-Israeli writer, journalist, and filmmaker Lilly Rivlin wrote an article about the biblical and Talmudic tales of Lilith for Ms. Magazine in 1972. In 1976, Susan Weidman Schneider founded the Jewish feminist magazine Lilith—she is still the editor-in-chief. Interest in Lilith, particularly as an icon of female liberation and agency, escalated and spread. Lilith Fair kicked off in 1997 and scores of books and collections of essays bearing Lilith’s name have been published since the ‘70s.
The interest has not died down; today, there are countless women and non-binary folk who have reclaimed Lilith.
Unsurprisingly, Lilith has also been a figure in pop culture for decades, especially in the horror and fantasy genres. Also unsurprisingly, most of the creators behind the stories have taken significant artistic liberties and have deviated significantly from the source material. Which is okay! Folklore and mythology are always evolving, with each storyteller adding their own flair and putting their own spin on things.
When I was presented with the opportunity to review this film, I was excited. Especially because the summary actually noted where the myth originated. The description is as follows: This is a horror anthology that follows the Demon Lilith, who punishes men for their indiscretions against women. A figure in Jewish mythology developed earliest in the Babylonian Talmud between the 3rd and 5th centuries, she is a dangerous demon of the night seeking her revenge. As she follows four men who have sinned against women, a detective is trying to stop her before she executes each victim and claims their souls.
LILITH was written by Richard J. Aguirre, Paul McFall, Anthony Werley, and Alexander T. Hwang, who also directed the film. Among the expansive cast is iconic horror actor Felissa Rose, so as you can imagine, I was looking forward to watching this movie.
My optimism died in the first three minutes.
Originally released in 2018, the film consists of four loosely interlocking stories about women getting revenge against the men who have wronged them. In each of the stories, a different woman plays Lilith, which could have been an excellent plot device if it was done well. Unfortunately, due to a combination of poor direction and even worse writing, the multiple portrayals of Lilith fell flat. Honestly, the use of Lilith at all made no sense considering the bland and very human ways that the men eventually meet their ends. There’s an overlaying narrative in addition to the four main stories, but this too is incredibly lackluster. Not even Felissa Rose could save it.
Going beyond the obvious surface problems of a weak plot and middle school-level writing, there is a deeper issue with LILITH. This is a film that aims to show women reclaiming their power that was stolen by men, and yet none of the stories were written by a woman. It’s doubtful that a single woman even read the script before LILITH went into pre-production. In fact, with the exception of the cast, there appear to be only two women involved in the making of LILITH: executive producer Kathleen W. Hwang and special effects makeup artist Nikki Vizcaino.
In essence, LILITH is the result of men appropriating a mythological figure that women have spent decades reclaiming, and not even doing it well. The film is now available On Demand and on Digital.