Every so often, as a film writer and overall genre fan, you get stumped by a movie.

Amulet was definitely one of those – full disclosure, I tried to watch it the first time when way too tired and paid the price – couldn’t really follow it, it seemed desperately slow, yada yada.

But I thought I’d pay my dues and give it another go and boy am I glad I did as Romola Garai’s debut feature is one hell of a watch – in fact to call it ambitious might be an understatement.

It certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste – the pacing, ambiguity and general weirdness will ensure that, but if you fancy something a bit different then Amulet very much fits the bill.

The story – as much as I can tell – focuses on Tomaz (Alec Secareanu), a former soldier who has seen (and possibly carried out) plenty of nastiness during a civil war in an unnamed Eastern European country (we get plenty of flashbacks).

Now living on the streets and carrying out labouring jobs to get by, Tomaz stumbles across Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton), a kindly nun who offers Tomaz a way out – move in as a live-in labourer with Magda (Carla Juri) and her sick mother and get a fresh start.

Trouble is, the house is worryingly run-down, Magda seems a little bit off the wall and as for the mother, well she seems stuck in the attic. Still, Tomaz is keen to give it a go – and that will be just the start of his troubles…

I’ll happily admit I still didn’t completely get where Garai was going with this, but suffice to say Amulet is keen to cast a spotlight on the sins of man – in fact I think the director herself has passed the movie off as some sort of feminist revenger.

And that is fine by me, as the actor-turned-director shows such a deft hand in building an atmosphere – Amulet is practically choking with foreboding – and there are so many subtle touches that hint at what may become (and, indeed, what may have gone before).

While some may find that slow it certainly wasn’t for me (second time round) and when, in the last 20 minutes or so, the shit really hits the fan Garai has no problem dishing out the red stuff, throwing in plenty of gore and some marvellously madcap imagery.

The performances are tremendous all round – Secareanu excels as a ‘nice guy’ getting in way over his head, while Juri nervously fidgets her way through the film (and also gives us a dance routine to remember). Staunton is on hand for the gravitas and delivers in spades.

But this is very much Garai’s show – she wrote the screenplay as well – and Amulet is a startling calling card that really earmarks her as a genre talent to watch.

Arrow Video Frightfest Halloween Review: Amulet
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About The Author

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle