Slow Burn That Could Use a Bit More Heat
Chris Kavan - wrote on 10/19/20
Horror has seen a great resurgence of late and you don't need $100 million or more to make an effective film. This has led to some of the best the genre has to offer - but also plenty of pale imitations. Amulet, with its slow burn and creepy atmosphere lands somewhere right in the middle. It has its moments but never quite grips you the way you want.
When I say slow burn, Amulet takes a fair share of time to get to the horror portion. Much of the beginning of the film is dedicated to Tomas (Alec Secareanu), a veteran of war who is obviously suffering from some major PTSD trauma. Living homeless and taking on odd jobs just to survive, he is forced to tie his own hands before going to sleep and suffers from nightmare involving his past at a lonely outpost where he encounters a woman named Miriam (Angeliki Papoulia). These flashbacks are thrown in every 10-15 minutes for most of the film. After a fire where he squats, and the loss of his money, Tomas reluctantly accepts an offer from Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton) to work at a crumbling house where Magda (Carla Juri) cares for her ailing mother. Happy for a hot meal and a place to sleep, Tomas begins to suspect something is a bit off - and things start to really take a turn when he finally meets mother.
The main issue that keeps Amulet from rising above the crowd is that leads Secareanu and Juri are both a bit too subdued. Both in tone and character development, things are too flat and emotionless. Even their outburts are oddly subdued. But give credit to Staunton - though her part is small, she really stands out - and reminds me of why she was so perfectly cast in the Harry Potter series. The story builds and builds but the climax feels like it's trying too hard to be different and the reference to the Amulet of the title in the end is just kind of weired and out there.
But not everything is bad - from mutant bat-things to some crazy dance moves, the film holds a some surprising moments that make it worth watching, even if takes awhile to rev up. Those hoping for a more traditional horror film will likely zone out, but if you want something that requires a bit more effort, Amulet will do the trick.