Aside from Finale, Amulet (2020) Lacks Luster to Stand Out from the Crowd
First Wide Release: July 24, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Romola Garai
Writer: Romola Garai
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Starring: Carla Juri, Alec Secareanu, Imedla Staunton
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
After needing to quickly leave his temporary sleeping quarters, a homeless man and former soldier, Tomas (Alex Secareanu), meets with a nun (Imedla Staunton) who finds him a place to stay in London. She connects him with the owners of the house, a woman named Magda (Carla Juri) and her ailing mother (Anah Ruddin). Initially uninterested at the prospect of living in a decaying house with strangers, he is persuaded to stick around and help around the house. The longer he stays, the greater his affection grows towards Magda as well as his suspicion that something is off in the house.
A meditative and abstract piece of horror, Amulet confuses more than excites with a muddled plot and awkward execution.
Dirty and claustrophobic, Amulet is an unconventional conduit for spiritual horror that leaves an impact on viewers. I didn’t know what I expected from watching but it was not what director Romola Garai made. There are a lot of really interesting ideas here that don’t really feel like they all lead into one another. I have questions about the mechanics of the overarching process that the movie presents. I’m never one to get caught up in details but some of the explanations were a little confusing to me. What starts as a traditional haunted house tale culminates in a disturbing finale that enters into some truly nightmarish territory. Overall, it’s a mixed bag here.
Secareanu leads as the introverted and troubled Tomas. It’s easy to see his reluctance about moving in with the two women, but we don’t understand why until later. His character arc is handled clumsily. It feels like much of his character development is done through the service of flashbacks rather than his time in the house. While both Magda and Sister Claire have their own influence on him, making him second guess his thoughts of dipping out, neither really have their own characters fleshed out. Juri and Staunton give solid performances alongside Secareanu but it’s not enough to make the meandering story palatable.
Garai has a clear vision for what she wants to achieve with Amulet, and I respect her and her team for that. The story is ambitious and creative, even if its ambiguity doesn’t resonate with me. The ending does a great job of shocking, both in subject matter and technical merits. It caught me off guard, which is something I enjoy experiencing. It’s always interesting to see interpretations of the past catching up to characters for their misdeeds. The way it manifests, when it happens, etc, I like to see what justice looks like. Overall, it’s an unsettling film despite its story progression blunting the heights of the horror the audience could experience.
It's revealed, fairly early on, that Tomas was once a soldier, and we know based on his behavior, that something happened. After numerous flashbacks to some absolutely gorgeous forests outside of England, that we understand why Tomas is here. The non-linear nature of this story gives audiences a chance to judge Tomas both on actions in the present and the past. In theory, this is a great way to subvert audience’s expectations, but it honestly feels disjointed and gimmicky. The resolution, however odd it may be, makes sense and it works for the story Garai is telling but it doesn’t feel particularly satisfying or well-put-together for the subject matter.
Solid performances and an interesting premise don’t make up for the fact that Amulet is not a particularly well-thought-out film. I admire Garai’s boldness, and it is clear that she has a strong sense of direction and vision. I look forward to seeing what she does next, but this one didn’t resonate with me at all. Forgettable at best and downright odd at its worst, the real curse of Amulet is how close it gets to being a truly good film.
Overall Score? 5/10