Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Garai has plenty of ideas and a willingness to embrace both more intellectual horror ideas and gore." | Photo: Nick Wall

British actress Romola Garai steps behind the camera for her feature debut, a horror tale that starts in psychological territory before getting considerable amounts of blood on its hands.

Perspective is skewed in Amulet, and we mostly learn what's happening via Tomaz (Romanian star Alec Secareanu, best known in the UK for his gentle turn in gay romance God's Own Country). A veteran of an unknown war, seen in flashbacks that pepper the narrative, he's living rough in Britain when circumstances lead to him being offered a room in a strange house by a nun (Imelda Staunton, having a considerable amount of fun), who may not have told him everything. The house, as is the way with horror movies, is old, huge and in disrepair, and only inhabited by Magda (Carla Juri), a young woman who is caring for her terminally ill mother (Anah Ruddin, putting in great physical work), who is confined to the attic.

Once he moves in, he and Magda embark on a tentative relationship, while things become increasingly sinister as Garai begins to turn the screw of her narrative. The film has a strong mood and look, with cinematographer Laura Bellingham finding excellent contrast between the damp, lush greens of the forested flashbacks and the nicotine-tinged light of Magda's house. The pacing is problematic, as after Garai's slow build of mood at the start of the film, she begins to hurtle headlong through plot points towards the end. Unpacking her mythology a bit earlier would have worked much better, as there is so much to take in during the film's ultimate 15 minutes, it makes your head spin.

Despite excellent performances from the cast, the characters also remain shallow - this is a particular shame when it comes to Magda, since the film is clearly intended to give a feminist twist to established horror fare, yet she never develops a sense of her inner life or psychology as previous Sundance break-outs like Babadook and Under The Shadow did for their central female characters. Garai has plenty of ideas and a willingness to embrace both more intellectual horror ideas and gore. She deserves credit for putting the pedal to the metal in the film's final third and she knows how to create an element of surprise, it's a shame we don't care more about the characters involved.

Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2020
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Amulet packshot
A homeless ex-soldier gets more than he bargained for when he agrees to help a young woman and her dying mother.
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Director: Romola Garai

Writer: Romola Garai

Starring: Alec Secareanu, Carla Juri, Imelda Staunton, Paul O'Kelly, Tom Bennett, Louis Jay Jordan, Perry Jaques, Yonah Odoom, Anah Ruddin, Amanda Quach, Anah Ruddin, William E Lester

Year: 2020

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: UK

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