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Review: Amulet – “A unique and unforgettable horror film”

Released in the US in theatres and on-demand on the 24th of July, Amulet is the feature-length writing and directing debut of actress Romola Garai (I Capture the Castle, Atonement, Mary Bryant) and stars Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Vera Drake), Alec Secareanu (God’s Own Country) and Carla Juri (Blade Runner 2049).

Tomaz (Secareanu) is an ex-soldier who is haunted by his past and scraping by in London working cash-in-hand and crashing at a homeless shelter. When his hostel burns down, taking with it his meagre possessions and all his saved money, Tomaz seems screwed. Until a chance meeting with Sister Claire (Staunton).

The sunny nun wants to help Tomaz and offers him room and board in a dilapidated house in exchange for doing odd jobs around the place and watching over its other residents: Magda (Juri) and her elderly mother who we only initially hear grunting and growling and throwing herself around in the attic…

As Tomaz and Magda start to become close, the house gives off ever-increasingly bad vibes while Garai gradually ekes out terrifying images and info regarding Magda’s mum and flashbacks to the event that ruined Tomaz’s life and broke him spiritually, as well as cranking up an almost-physical-feeling atmosphere of rotting dread and rancid evil.

Amulet is a classy and skin-crawling British kitchen-sink horror with a decrepit ambience of black mould, peeling wallpaper and yellowed net curtains that keeps you on-edge and apprehensive throughout. A lot of talent and style is used to achieve this with camera moves and focus pulls on to small disconcerting details combined with macro sound effects that make the ordinary feel repulsive and leave you feeling queasy and uneasy.

A slow-burner, not a shocker, Amulet patiently smoulders for an hour before hitting you with an all-out act three where all bets are off and everything that’s happened so far pays off with thrilling mythology, everyone’s secrets and motives getting revealed and a brilliant Imelda Staunton performance combining to leave you totally shook.

Romola Garai has not only made a unique and unforgettable horror film, but she has also bent the genre and its trappings to her will, doing things in her finale that will take the audience to weird and wild and spiritually terrifying new places. Romola is the real deal.

Amulet is released in the US in theatres and on-demand on the 24th of July.

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