Cinema Review: Amulet | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, June 9th, 2023  


Studio: Magnet
Directed by Romola Garai

Jul 20, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Amulet—which has nothing to do with the graphic novel series of the same name—is a feminist horror film. It follows Tomaz (Alec Secareanu) after a fire destroys his communal living space in London, England. He enlists the help of a nun (Imelda Staunton), who leads him to a small, messy, and claustrophobic house. He becomes the lodger of resident Magda (Carla Juri) and her mother, whose illness keeps her confined to the house’s top floor. As Tomaz’s and Magda’s relationship builds, he can’t help but notice the eerie activity going on inside the house, particularly on the floor he is banned from visiting.

Amulet contains a parallel storyline focused on Tomaz’s past as a soldier in a foreign conflict. Through flashbacks, viewers are introduced to Miriam (Angeliki Papoulia), a single mother with whom he forms a bond. Although these scenes are entertaining and present some interesting topics such as his post-traumatic stress disorder, they detract from what is going on between Tomaz, Magda, and her mysterious mother. These flashbacks occur at moments that don’t feel warranted, hindering the progress of the film–not the quality you’re after when the goal is keeping viewers on the edge of their seats.

The film is slow-burning, and while that can be effective – particularly in horror – Amulet never gains the momentum it needs. The first two-thirds build up in a thematically meaningful and interesting way, using both plots to illustrate Tomaz’s PTSD and the creepiness of the house to build up suspense. The last third of the film doesn’t bring those two themes together at all. Instead, there is a predictable plot twist, and a final sequence that while chilling, is derivative horror-film-by-numbers.

A directorial debut for Romola Garai, the idea a feminist horror film that speaks on gender roles is not relayed in a straightforward manner. It is hidden deep within the meaning of each scene and never really feels present on the surface of the scene itself. The psychological and suspenseful themes make an impact, but without a defined plot that gives them a spotlight, Amulet is not as strong as it could be. This is a true shame considering how interesting and unique Garai’s central concept is.

Style is always prioritized over substance in Amulet, which is its biggest downfall. The cinematography is incredibly well done – particularly in the flashback scenes – and the uses of light and darkness inside the house succeeds at instilling a creepiness that haunts most scenes. Good cinematography can only take a film – especially a horror film – so far. The film fails at building up a strong enough story to match how wonderful it looks, and for a slow-burn, Amulet burns out all too quickly. (

Author rating: 4/10

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Average reader rating: 3/10


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