Monday, July 27, 2020

Amulet Review: An Atmospheric Experience

Release date: July 24, 2020
Running time: 99 minutes
Starring: Carla Juri, Alec Secareanu, Imelda Staunton 

Tomaz (Secareanu) is an ex-soldier, living homeless in London, doing odd jobs and trying to forget his time in the war.  However, when his temporary shelter goes away, a nun (Staunton) offers him a place to stay at a decaying house inhabited by a young woman (Juri) and her dying mother. As he starts to fall for the young woman, he cannot ignore his suspicion that something sinister is going on.

Amulet is not your traditional horror movie.  It is an atmospheric experience that spends its time setting you up and giving you little glimpses here and there of what is going on.  The house that Tomaz, Magda (Juri), and her mother are staying in is dilapidated and full of dread.  Random holes, mold, strange smells and sounds; all of these are present in the house and all help to establish the overall sense of unease and impeding doom.  This, coupled with the wails of the dying mother, make the house feel imposing and oppressive.  And this sense is only heightened by the atmospheric music.  It uses splashes of sounds and chimes to really set the tone and heighten any tension in the scene.  And this sense of impending dread is all the more pronounced because of how slowly the story builds.  It reveals little snippets here and here as you get to know the characters and their predicament.  It also slowly reveals bits of the characters background, but not all at once.  

Amulet doesn't have many characters, but they are all perfectly cast and acted.  Tomaz has to carry much of the burden and he does so admirably.  His character goes through a range of emotions from fear, to anger, as well as portray his past self; all of these are done perfectly and Tomaz comes off as very believable.  Magda has less range but she is a very convincing hostess; she has to balance many different emotions taking care of her mother and the suspicion of a new person living in the house.  And Staunton as Sister Claire is always amazing, but is sadly not on the screen much.  Amulet's effects are mostly well done, with a commitment to old school effects, animatronics, and make up.  There are a few CG scenes, but they are the outlier.  For the most part the film uses great make up and blood effects to depict the more unsettling scenes in the film. 

Although the story of the film slowly reveals itself, it ends up going off the rails towards the end.  It feels like it hits a point of no return where the themes of the movie go on overdrive.  Some horror fans might appreciate that it goes off the rails, but might not be for everyone.  And the story is very slow to develop, which I appreciated but might cause viewers to lose interest in the film.  And although the story has a ton of great character development, it leaves you with some unanswered questions that you have to come to your own conclusions.  I didn't mind this, and especially don't mind if a horror movie doesn't wrap everything up in a nice bow, but it is something that might not appeal to many.  And speaking of horror, this film is not going to appeal to traditional horror fans.  It is much more atmospheric and unsettling, rather than your normal horror experience.  

Amulet tells a strange tale through its amazing sense of dread, unsettling sound effects, and simmering, complex story.  It won't be for everyone but there is plenty here for those looking for an atmospheric horror experience to appreciate.

Watch it.
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