Amulet: When a house is not a home

Review: A happy ending is unlikely in this revenge horror from debut writer-director Romola Garai

Amulet has been billed as a feminist revenge horror

Film Title: Amulet

Director: Romola Garai

Starring: Carla Juri, Imelda Staunton, Alec Secareanu, Angeliki Papoulia

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 99 min

Fri, Jan 28, 2022, 05:00

   

Tomaz (played by Alec Secareanu, a Romanian best known for God’s Own Country) is a migrant from an unnamed war zone, squatting in London and struggling with PTSD after being stationed at a remote checkpoint on a lonely border road in deep, dark woods. 

When his makeshift lodgings are burned in an arson attack, Tomaz is rescued by Sr Claire (Imelda Staunton, having a ball). The nun offers him a deal: in return for many odd jobs, he can avail of free lodgings in the ramshackle house where Magda (Carla Juri) tends to her ailing mother.

The house, not unlike the freaky domestic space of Relic, heaves with disquiet and damp. Tomaz soon fishes a strange, albino bat creature from the lavatory. The mother in the attic turns out to be far more monstrous. The narrative creeps and drips, slowly at first, towards something resembling Alice in Wonderland as dreamed by HR Giger and directed by Dario Argento. Meanwhile, flashbacks gradually reveal the reason why Tomaz binds his hands at night.

Amulet

Making her feature debut as a writer-director, Romola Garai, the star of I Capture the Castle and Atonement, makes merry with creepy practical effects and unsettling details. A pagan icon discovered in the forest foreshadows the awful tableaux to come. Old newspaper scraps, icky decor and bodily oozings add to the wild mythology.

Amulet has been billed as a feminist revenge horror. It’s a savage one, powered along by the same metaphorical heft that made The Babadook such a sensation. Tomaz, brilliantly played by Secareanu, is written as vulnerable, sympathetic; a classic Nice Guy in his relationships with both Magda and Miriam (Angeliki Papoulia), the woman he meets during his time as a sentry. He’s the fallen hero in his own story. 

Even his blossoming romance with Magda is a strange form of self-aggrandisement: “I told myself, if I freed you, I would have a right to be happy again,” he says. The togetherness they experience is probably not the happy ending he was striving for. 

In cinemas from January 28th