Film Review: Amulet (2020)

Romola Garai makes an impressive debut as writer and director of horror film Amulet, helped by great work from Alec Secareanu and Imelda Staunton 

“There are many here who seek refuge like you”

I’m not sure I knew what I thought Romola Garai’s debut as a film writer/director would be like but I don’t think I was expecting this. That said, once you start peeling back the layers of weighted meaning and startling imagery in Amulet, then it does feel increasingly à propos.

A deeply psychological horror film, Alec Secareanu leads from the top as Tomas, a former soldier from somewhere in Central Europe now homeless in London. He’s offered lodgings by a nice nun (Imelda Staunton) in return for some DIY, and putting up with the noises coming from the attic, ostensibly made by the invalid mother of existing tenant Magda (Carla Juri).

As the noises get darker and more complex, so too does our understanding of Tomas. Haunted by actions he took as a soldier, flashback scenes slowly unravel the past and we soon come to see, have a real bearing on what is happening in the present, it’s only a mild spoiler to say the blessed Imelda is excellent here.

Garai has clearly been inspired by a wide range of cinematic horror but there’s something special in the establishment of her vision here. Grabbing sexual politics by the proverbial and toying with the tropes of the genre whilst simultaneously tackling war atrocities, the slowest of builds leads to a vivid finale. It’s undoubtedly strange but I found it compelling. 

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