A horror film that slow burns before becoming increasingly abstract and disturbing, Amulet is a strong writing/directing debut for actor Romola Garai, best known for countless roles in period dramas from Atonement to TV’s Emma. This is an abstract beast, following Alec Secareanu’s ex-soldier as he lives a homeless life in London, haunted by gradually revealed memories of his past. Imelda Staunton’s nun takes pity on him and gets him to move in with Magda, Carla Juri, and her very sick mother in a decaying house, which he will try and do up as a way of earning his place there.
Something is very amiss within the house, however. The mother wails and moans, black mould grows everywhere, there is some suspiciously tasty ‘meat’ to eat and mutated, bat-like babies appear in toilets. Secareanu’s suspicions grow until he is finally confronted with what really lives in the attic; his love for Juri increases, but is he all he seems to be, and what is the significance of a carved goddess figure he found in the forests of war?
Garai manages to keep all the plates spinning well, conjuring a real atmosphere of dread from just long shots of wallpaper, disquieting images of trees and Juri’s enigmatic performance. The final act however is a major gear shift, full of alarming weirdness, boldly taking the film into a different realm. Lots of horror film tropes are played with and left unresolved; not everything is explained, giving the film an unsettling, nightmarish, creepy vibe that crawls under the skin. The climax of Amulet will divide, but there is no denying its power as tables and huge shell-like structures are bloodily turned.
Dir: Romola Garai (15) (99 mins)
Out in cinemas on Fri 28 Jan
words KEIRON SELF
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