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  Amulet The Oddest Goddess
Year: 2020
Director: Romola Garai
Stars: Carla Juri, Alec Secareanu, Imelda Staunton, Anah Ruddin, Angeliki Papoulia, Elowen Harris, Joey Akubeze, Jacqueline Roberts
Genre: Horror, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: A while back, Tomas (Alex Secareanu) was in his native Eastern Europe, employed as a soldier who had a checkpoint to staff alone in the middle of a forest where he never saw another soul. He had his books to read, and lived in a hut nearby which attended to his needs, so he did not miss the company, but one day he was digging in the undergrowth and he found a carved, bone amulet of a goddess figure. This strangely fascinated him, though he could not put his finger on why - then the next day he was at his post when a woman ran down the road in a state of panic. He raised his rifle, but something about her prevented him taking the shot...

Amulet was the brainchild of self-confessed horror fan and erstwhile costume drama actress Romola Garai as she hoped to branch out into directing, and as chillers were a genre she felt needed championing, particularly those from a female perspective, she concocted this. Initially it came across as one of those so-called "elevated horror" movies, all very dedicated to atmosphere and austere weirdness with the acting to go with it, and understandably that may be a warning signal that she was not going to bite the bullet and serve up an item that would justify her interest in a style that would happily be hysterical if the mood took it.

Oh, but it got hysterical all right, an apt word for the way it ended up in its madcap final act. There was a problem with that since very little of what went before prepared the audience for how it concluded, not to spoil things - you would be forced to get very specific to do that – but you could imagine many watching would reach the major twists and revelations and simply throw up their hands because they could not make any sense of what they had seen. It was true enough that the pieces did not fall into place quite as neatly as you would be anticipating, but rather a messy splurge of a shocker than one that slotted neatly into a bunch of cliches we had all seen before.

If there was a way to describe this, cliched would not be it, as we see the wartime footage where Tomas has escaped from edited into where he is now, as a refugee who makes his money on under the radar labouring jobs and sleeps in a shelter for the homeless. A sliver of hope is allowed when a nun (Imelda Staunton) descends to sweep him up and offer him a lifeline, which translates into Tomas moving in with a younger woman, Magda (Carla Juri) and her elderly, demented mother. The house where they all live is barely standing, the walls are peeling off the wallpaper and there's no electricity thanks to the old lady's habit of sticking her fingers in plug sockets and switching them on. The nun assures him that the mother is on her last legs and will be dead soon, but if you know your horror, you'll know grotesques like that have a habit of sticking around.

Meanwhile, Tomas and Magda grow closer and though both are somewhat cowed by their experiences, tentatively move towards a romance. But in a strong hint of the insanity to arrive, when Tomas is trying odd jobs around the crumbling building to create a semblance of liveability, he tries to unblock the toilet and finds something rather nasty in there - something still alive that needs to be stomped on with the heel of his boot. From there we discover why he fled his soldier's post, and it was not an event that he is an innocent party in, and we work out that some form of reckoning is around the corner, although precisely what it is you will never guess from what has preceded it, with the significance of the goddess amulet finally exposed and a horror version of gender fluidity that may not have been fashionable in the twenty-twenties, but assuredly made for a potent scene of ghastliness that was at once playful and cruel. All that and Staunton proving her worth, as well as the wisdom of hiring someone of her calibre for your film, if only for a few days. Overall, far from perfect, but containing more imagination than many in its class would even consider. Music by Sarah Angliss.

Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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