Writer/director Romola Garai’s Amulet may have the look of a certain kind of movie but stay tuned because this is a shocking and fierce re-invention of a genre we thought we knew the ins and outs of.
The story sees homeless ex-soldier Tomaz (God’s Own Country’s Alec Secăreanu) offered a roof over his head in London, in a deteriorating home inhabited by young woman Magda (Blade Runner 2049’s Carla Juri) and her bed-ridden and gravely ill mother. What initially seems like a comfortable home in need of some TLC, soon becomes something else entirely, as strange events begin to escalate, and the past increasingly reflects in the present.
Garai's film is methodical and chilling, piecing its parts together across a very deliberate pace, with constant sinister scoring by Sarah Angliss. Amulet’s slow-build admittedly will see some tap out before the final bell, but we urge you to stay connected to this intriguing piece of filmmaking because Amulet’s mountingly unsettling non-linear narrative may seem like it could potentially reach a frustrating climax (much like this year’s horribly disappointing The Turning), but a challenging and incredible finale provides a gruesome and cathartic payoff. Secăreanu is excellent at the head of the film as a character with many edges, while Juri’s daring performance is surprising and impactful, and there is superb support by Imelda Staunton as the enigmatic Sister Claire.
This feminist horror vision is built on the anger that comes with abuse. It grasps its story with a bloody hand and slowly squeezes out some of the perception shifting ugliness beneath the flesh. Characters are questioned, mysteries appear and answers are given in the brutalist way. There are admittedly some drawn-out moments but if you have the taste for the kind of film this is, you are rewarded with a bloody and unusual tale of atonement, evil, punishment and the experiences of women in a cruel world. Amulet is incredibly bizarre but incredibly powerful if you allow its story to breathe at its own rate, resulting in a bold and impressive directorial debut.
AMULET is released in UK cinemas on January 28th