AMULET (2020) Reviews and overview


‘It finds you’
Amulet is a 2020 British-UAE horror film about a homeless PTSD-afflicted ex-soldier who is offered a place to stay in an old house.

Written and directed by Romola Garai – making her feature debut – the movie stars Imelda Staunton, Alec Secareanu, Carla Juri and Angeliki Papoulia.

Tomaz (Alec Secareanu), a former soldier, is left homeless after an accident and takes refuge in the decaying home of Magda (Carla Juri), a lonely young woman in desperate need of help as she cares for her ailing mother. At first hesitant, Magda soon welcomes Tomaz into their lives.

However, as he gets closer to and begins to fall for Magda, Tomaz notices strange and unexplainable phenomena. Something seems very wrong with the mysterious old woman who never leaves the top floor, and Tomaz begins to suspect that Magda may in fact be a prisoner to her otherworldly bidding…

Carla Juri and Alec Secareanu

Amulet could have been tighter in some places and, by doing so, would have kept the creepiness factor running on all cylinders. I can see this being a divisive film, as it has a strong arthouse vide (which I dig, BTW) and is somewhat vague in its rules and mystical happenings: that and the snail’s pace used for two-thirds of the film.” Arrow in the Head

Amulet plays like Relic without the same depth of emotional resonance. They’re both cold movies about human connection built on metaphors of decay. Even with a small handful of characters in controlled locations, Amulet isn’t as intimate. It doesn’t seep into the soul on a personal level.” Culture Crypt

“It’s somber, heartwarming, repulsive, jaw-dropping, and has an acerbic sense of humor at times, and I’d much rather watch a movie where the director takes a ton of chances than none at all. Is Amulet messy at times? For sure. Does it tend to spin its narrative wheels during the film’s first half? It does. But as a whole, Amulet is a ballsy debut…” Daily Dead

“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.” Eye for Film

“The conclusion is wrapped-up in a timely statement that audiences might grasp on to, to the point where it tricks them into thinking everything that came before it was better than it actually was. Don’t be fooled. However enjoyable and satisfying the ending of Amulet might be, it doesn’t excuse an otherwise painfully dull and pointless exercise in non-horror.” /Film

“The central theme of Amulet isn’t “what does this creepy amulet have to do with the screaming woman in the attic?” but “what’s the price of absolution?” or even “how does evil seep into every inch of a person’s life?” Heady asks, and ones that Garai is often able to answer in high style in a chilling, smart first look at what she’s capable of behind the camera.” IndieWire

“Maybe another session in the editing bay would have tightened and clarified things better. There is great atmosphere and terrific performances here, but there are also issues of pace and logical consistency. It is good enough to inspire curiosity about Garai’s next horror outing, but its flaws are nagging.” J.B. Spins

“Watch it again and you’ll notice how much of the drama plays out not in the frenzied shrieks and memorably grotesque effects, but rather in the wordless, watchful expressions of the female characters inhabiting the margins of Tomaz’s psychodrama. Garai gives voice to their silent fury and unmistakably adds her own, building a howl of rage that before long has come to sound like a chorus.” Los Angeles Times

” …Garai is clearly invested in creating juicy, complex gender roles. But her try at a gynocentric mythology falls lamentably short (and turns silly), even if her explorations of body horror and pulsating red walls have their perverse pleasures. Like a lot of filmmakers, she works too hard to make sense of a mystery that would be better left to fester and throb.” The New York Times

“Unafraid to turn into a true phantasmagoria, Garai’s filmmaking hints at a director whose tastes skew away from your typical horror movie construction. There’s a major twist in “Amulet” that feels a little cheap, but some of the images here are powerful, attaining the strength of ancient folklore about vengeance and justice, but doing so in a way that feels cinematically modern.”

“It’s when Amulet tries to tie its various strands together, however, that the film starts to lose the plot, its footing and the goodwill it’s built up. It seems to suggest that evil, whether the supernatural or the social kind, is all part of the same age-old continuum, yet doesn’t quite connect the dots in a manner that gives you a coherent big picture at the end. The movie’s ambitions exceed its grasp, and it’s hard not to wonder if the ideas here might not have been better served in a shorter, tighter format.” Rolling Stone

“While the ending ventures into surrealism that would, at least partly, negate some of the fantastical-realism connections made throughout the film, Amulet is an impressive debut, one that might rely a bit too much on the expected beats of horror, but one which knows its exploration of trauma of both those who perpetrate violence and those who receive it.” Screen Anarchy

“If the highly worked aesthetic package sometimes risks mannerism for its own sake, these accomplished, often near-abstract individual elements mostly mesh in a way that marks Garai as a filmmaker with a sensibility that’s fully formed on arrival. Her actors also work very well in what must have been a somewhat challenging context…” Variety

Amulet premiered in the Midnight section of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in January. It was released on VOD on July 24, 2020, by Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing. A Blu-ray will be released on October 13th followed by a DVD on October 20th.

Cast and characters:
Imelda Staunton … Sister Claire
Alec Secareanu … Tomaz
Carla Juri … Magda
Angeliki Papoulia … Miriam
Paul O’Kelly … Paul Builder
Louis Jay Jordan … Squatter
Tom Bennett … Battle-worn Soldier
Yonah Odoom … Sudanese Woman
Jacqueline Roberts
Perry Jaques … Van man
Amanda Quach … Girl at the Pub
William E. Lester … Voice of the Mother
Joseph Akubeze
Elowen Harris
Anah Ruddin … Mother

Production companies:
Head Gear Films
Kreo Films FZ
Metrol Technology
Trigger Films

Technical details:
99 minutes

MOVIES and MANIA rating:

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