Sundance Exclusive Review: Amulet

Year: 2020
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Director/ Writer: Romola Garai
Stars: Imelda Staunton, Carla Juri, Alec Secareanu, Angeliki Papoulia

By Andrea Thompson

Call me the worst feminist stereotype you can think of, but I’m glad that female rage and revenge are starting to be a big thing in movies. So you’d think I would be just the audience for “Amulet,” a horror film that’s also the feature directorial debut of actress Romola Garai no less. Alas, while the movie exudes a whole lot of righteous, well-earned anger, without a real focus it’s merely one nonsensical plot twist after another.

Tomaz (Alec Secareanu) is a former soldier whose past traumas have left him homeless. But a chance encounter (or maybe not so chancy) leads him to a rapidly decaying home, where a young woman named Magda (Carla Juri) is caring for her ailing mother. Magda is initially reluctant to welcome Tomaz into her home, but she relents, and the two slowly bond, only for Tomaz to suspect that there’s something evil and otherworldly lurking in the house with them. The fact that what eventually unfolds isn’t that interesting is bad enough, but “Amulet” also relies on stereotypes that shouldn’t just be put to rest, but six feet under, such as the violent homeless guy, the disgustingly deteriorating woman too horrific to be seen by the outside world, and punishing a man by putting him in a role traditionally filled by women.

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Juri and Secareanu also try to make their budding relationship a kind of possession which threatens to engulf one or both of them, but Garai, who also wrote, just doesn’t give them enough of a foundation to truly evoke much of a reaction.

Puzzlingly, the setting leaves something to be desired. Like actual scares, which are very few and far between. Horror movies which mostly unfurl in one location tend to make such specific locales characters in their own right, but the house where Tomaz and Magda slowly circle each other, perhaps under the watchful eye of another power, never truly comes to life. While there are some downright disturbing secrets within, they accrue in the house without feeling in tandem with it, squandering much of the potential for fear or suspense.

Juri and Secareanu also try to make their budding relationship a kind of possession which threatens to engulf one or both of them, but Garai, who also wrote, just doesn’t give them enough of a foundation to truly evoke much of a reaction. And it erodes the rest of the film to such a degree that the batshit conclusion isn’t even exciting enough to be called a climax, merely a collection of half-baked ideas that rely on the very stereotypes “Amulet” is trying to subvert.

0.5 stars

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