Amulet follows a homeless ex-soldier who is offered a place to stay with a woman and her dying mother. As he begins to develop feelings for the socially awkward woman, he can't help but feel an unease within the house strange and disturbing things occur.
[This movie was viewed on Hulu at the time of this review.]
Amulet is an enigma in so many ways. It seems too clever to contain the apparent plot holes it exhibits, and it seems too entertaining for how uneventful the first hour is. The film is a well-mixed bag of weird choices that inevitably makes the film hard to critique and recommend. Critiquing it is a challenge, because I must inevitably choose whether or not to recommend it and I just don't know how to go about that.
The directing is great, but the cinematography was hit-or-miss. The acting was also sparingly good, but it felt imbalanced and awkward beyond the characters' portrayals. The pacing is perhaps the most awkward thing about the whole production, as it struggles to build momentum yet has moments that fully engage your attention. The uneven nature of it is no more apparent when you think things are ramping up, but inevitably die back down before the finale.
And what a finale. The climax of Amulet is insane. It is insane in plot (the moral compass spins wildly, yet seems to continually land in one defined place), in ambiguity, and in style. The film builds up a sense of preconceived notions, then runs those notions through a grinder and spits them out on a table of viscera and swirls it around. You can't look away, but you're brain is telling you it can't process sense out of it all.
But at the end of the day, despite its desire to be smarter than the average horror movie, it really is just another tale of immoral behavior being punished at a grand scale, which is the purest, simplest form of horror. The journey to get to it is at the whim of flashbacks that are revealed at a patience-required pace, and it disguises the mystery as a clever unraveling when it is merely the overused flashback plot device that gives us the answer in a predictable, lazy format whenever the director deems necessary.
But again, it all culminates in these insane visuals that use mostly practical effects and some wonky CG in brief moments. The experience is otherworldly and wholly unique. The film is arguably worth it for its odd and disturbing methods of enacting penance that are extremely unsettling and awkwardly elaborate. The gradual reveal of the plot's inner workings add up if you skim over it, but don't seem to add up the more you dive in. Which is funny, because the movie seems dead set on being deep and pensive, but feels as superficial as Hellraiser at the end of the day. You opened the box, we came. You did bad, we punished you. Now give me more demon bat babies.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 9/10
Horror Quality: 6/10
Film Quality: 6/10