In Review

Film review: Amulet 

A confused horror film directed by Romola Garai

The actress Romola Garai’s directorial debut is a “moody, brooding” horror film that inches from “slow-boil creaks to rapturous, hallucinogenic madness”, while delivering a few good jump scares along the way, said Mark Kermode in The Observer; “an encounter with something horrible in the bathroom gave me a genuine start”. The Romanian actor Alec Secareanu stars as Tomaz, a veteran “from an unnamed, conflict-torn country”, now making ends meet in squalid London. When he meets a “sinisterly smiling nun”, Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton), she offers him refuge in a dilapidated suburban house, where he can live as long as he helps to repair the building. He accepts, and ends up enclosed in the house with Magda (Carla Juri), a fellow resident who’s taking care of her disabled mother. Gradually, the house becomes “a character with its own distinctive pulse”, whose “mouldy walls mirror a creeping moral malaise within”.

The first hour of Amulet is admirably chilling, said Matthew Bond in The Mail on Sunday. But “as the bumps in the attic grow progressively more alarming”, Garai gets into a “terrible tangle” with an overcomplicated plot “involving demons, deities and eternal damnation”. I found this “chamber-horror oddity” weird and wonky, agreed Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph. Amulet could have brought a “bracingly ambitious” feminist twist to the genre. Yet the pacing is “askew” and the dialogue stilted – and the “berserk” ending unleashes a series of twists that upend “all the power dynamics we’d previously been fed”. You’ll leave confused, which is hardly ideal.

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