Amulet (CREDIT: Rob Baker Ashton/Magnet Releasing)

Starring: Carla Juri, Alec Secareanu, Imelda Staunton, Angeliki Papoulia, Anah Ruddin

Director: Romola Garai

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: R for Freaky and Disturbing Images

Release Date: July 24, 2020 (Theaters and On Demand)

It’s nice when people open their houses up to someone who doesn’t have anywhere else to stay. But it’s not so nice when there’s something demonic lurking within that house. Not to mention all the structural problems that often go hand-in-hand with supernatural occupancy. Maybe the guest can summon some exorcism skills, but when the pipes are leaking and the walls are cracking, it can be tough to get in a good night’s sleep. This is the predicament that the homeless Tomaz (Alec Secareanu) finds himself in in Amulet, Romola Garai’s feature directorial debut. He’s given an offer he’s not in much of a place to refuse: to stay at the home of Magda (Carla Juri), a young woman who seems entirely cut off from the rest of the world as she cares for her dying mother.

As Amulet starts up, it strikes me as a slow-burn horror in the vein of It Comes at Night, where it’s not clear that we’ll ever fully see what’s causing all the commotion. I also detect notes of The Innkeepers, in terms of a general feeling of spookiness instead of any fully present monsters. If anything, it seems for a while that the scariest figure could be a stern nun played by Imelda Staunton. (And by Imelda Staunton standards, she’s actually fairly nice.)

But then a bat shows up in a toilet. I thought it was a pig at first. But no, it’s very much a bloodsucking mammal, and it’s in a foul mood. And that description would also accurately describe Magda’s mom and the whole house itself (not so much the mammal part for the latter). In the final act, Amulet ruthlessly turns macabre and baroque right quick. It’s a little overwhelming and presumably would have been even more so if I had seen it in a theater instead of at my home. Thie go-for-broke set design would almost certainly be more enveloping on a bigger screen, but its boldness is at least still impressive no matter what the scale. And that’s important, because that is pretty much where Amulet pulls all of its eggs in the basket when everything is said and done.

Amulet is Recommended If You Like: Vampire bats

Grade: 3 out of 5 Home Repairs