Amulet Review: Lady in the Loft

An ex-soldier finds himself sharing a house with a young woman and her mother who seems to have a strange illness in Amulet. Here is the SciFiNow review.

Amulet

In her directorial debut, Romola Garai delivers an unnerving experiment on our perceptions of penance and predators in Amulet.

Having escaped his life as a reluctant soldier from an unnamed, war torn country, Tomas finds himself living in the UK. While sleeping rough in abandoned housing, working cash-in-hand for dangerous construction work, Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton), a kindly (but oh-so-suspicious) nun, takes pity on his situation and offers him a new opportunity.

Taking him to a decaying house, she offers Tomas free accommodation on the condition that he help fix the place up and assist young Magda (Carla Juri) as she cares for her terminally ill mother, whose mad and violent fits of rage force her to live locked and isolated in the house’s attic.

Pretty quickly Tomas realises that there’s something unnatural about the mother’s illness and despite turning to a blossoming relationship with Magda for salvation, there’s a sickness in the soul of his situation that he cannot escape.

Amulet is one of those films where the less you know going in, the more you can take away from its conclusion. Rife with symbolism and delivered with noble intent, Garai’s directorial debut is a complex horror that works hard to deconstruct character tropes. Damsels in distress and the strong silent type are present in Magda and Tomas as our classic horror leads, but Garai plays with the language of cinema to methodically undermine our assumptions of them in order to create an all together more truthful and disturbing horror.

Despite some editing and pacing problems that risk destabilising its intentions, the film is exceptionally beautiful to watch. Opening with sweeping shots of lush-looking forests, the audience is instantly bathed in a forlorn sense of inescapability. Seduced by its outward appearance, yet unable to see the reality of the horrors that could be occurring underneath the canopy of green, Garai’s first feature has her coming out swinging, psychologically playing with the audience’s preconceptions and using uncompromising body shocks to remind you that it’s the beast within that you should be scared of.

Amulet is bold and confrontational, shocking and contemplative, forcing audiences to examine their own complicity in how we shape the nature of humanity.

Amulet will be released in cinemas on 28 January from Republic Film Distribution. Find out more, including showtimes, here. Read our interview with Amulet writer and director Romola Garai here.