Review by Emerian Rich
Part love story, monster movie, creepy house terror, convalescent horror, and goddess/demon damnation story, Amulet is a masterpiece from an unlikely source: Period piece actress, Romola Garai.
Perhaps only Romola could’ve written such a strange mashup of romance, terror, and gothic horror. Being cast in period productions as the spoiled Gwendolyn Harleth in Daniel Deronda, the naïve sister in Nickolas Nickleby, and Miss Woodhouse in Emma, you might think she’s just a sweet, pretty face. She plays the innocent lamb quite well—check out Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights—but this fascinating, twisted script proves she’s got more skillz than simply looking great in a corset. As her first full-length directorial debut, Amulet is sure to put her on the radar as one of the great horror directors of the future. Courageously tackling several timely but taboo subjects under one umbrella, she weaves a story of revenge that I didn’t see coming.
This flick opens on what appears to be an outpost in the deep woods, manned by just one military gentleman. At this point, the viewer is not certain what time period, war, or location he is in. A woman runs into the net of his border patrol and he takes mercy on her, allowing her food and shelter when it is implied that his duty is to shoot her on sight.
Sometime later we join the soldier again. He is homeless and destitute in a city where a nun tries to help by setting him up in a house with a poor woman who needs some handiwork done. When entering the house, you are led to believe you are witnessing the real-time back-story of Nell in The Haunting. A homely girl without many resources is forced to live in squalor to take care of her ailing mother who lives in a locked room upstairs. But the noises and camera work leads you to believe there is something else going on up there.
Romola’s directorial style keeps the atmosphere uncomfortable and suspenseful as she jumps back and forth in time, with mixed steady and unsteady camera shots, leaving the viewer not quite sure where the plot is leading. The last twenty minutes had me on an emotional roller coaster experiencing a mix of shock, terror, revelation, and disgust that I have never experienced watching a film, ever. It left me sitting back stunned as I sewed all the pieces back together long into the end credits rolling.
This film is for the true horror fan. Someone who isn’t faint of heart, isn’t bothered by grotesque figures, and is craving a unique viewing experience. What I like most about this film is that it sets up a rather normal setting where the viewer believes they understand what’s going to occur, until you don’t. And then you REALLY DON’T.
The end of this movie has whispers of the surreal like you’ve stepped into a Dali painting or you’re trapped in the dream sequences from The Cell, 2000. It’s shot with a low-budget feel, but it delivers on so many levels, you’ll still be trying to piece the puzzles together days later.
An outstanding first-time venture, I am excited to see what else Romola has in that not just beautiful but supremely talented, head of hers.