The feature-length directorial debut of Romola Garai, Amulet tells the story of Tomas (Alec Secareanu), a homeless ex-soldier living in London. After the derelict building he lives in is destroyed in a fire, he is discovered by nun Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton), who offers him a place to stay, in exchange for helping with the house’s maintenance and looking after residents Magda (Carla Juri) and her dying mother (Anah Ruddin). Tomas takes her up on this offer, and, while Magda is initially hesitant. the two begin to grow closer. However, it soon becomes clear that there is something altogether more sinister living in the house with the three of them.
Amulet is a film with a lot to say, covering a number of themes such as identity, abuse and perpetuating cycles of violence in its 99-minute runtime. It’s also very interestingly paced, much of it a slow burn that eventually gives way to some distinctly unsettling and visceral horror. While the payoff is worth the long wait, and the film does do a great job at balancing and pacing its slow first act to create a gradual sense of creeping dread, at times the pace can be a little too steady, which could pull some viewers out of the experience.
Despite this, there’s a lot to appreciate here, and what Amulet lacks in brevity it more than makes up for in style and substance. The cinematography goes a long way to keep things interesting, accentuating the horror of the mundane and turning Magda’s house into a living, malevolent narrative presence. The writing is smart, playing with its audience’s expectations, and is bolstered by some powerful and subdued performances from its talented cast, who all represent their messy and complicated characters excellently.
Amulet is an ambitious debut for Garai, slow and cerebral but confident in its pacing and aesthetics. While at times the effect can be on the ponderous side, which is likely to alienate a lot of moviegoers, for more patient audience members there’s definitely a gripping and intelligent story to enjoy at a gradual – but certainly not leisurely – pace.
Amulet is released in select cinemas on 28th January 2022.
Watch the trailer for Amulet here: