M.L. Miller here and welcome to my tenth anniversary Best in Horror Countdown! Every day in this glorious month of October I’ll be counting down the best in horror, culminating with the best horror film since last Halloween! With theaters closed for the bulk of this shitty, shitty year, much of the countdown comes from alternative sources like streaming services, digital download, and On Demand. Plus, we saw the return of the drive-in theater, which is awesome! This list compiles the best horror films released beginning on October 1, 2019 and ending on September 30, 2020. No elitism here—only films released to the public on this list which rules out haughty festival flicks that only esteemed reviewers get to see. If it played on a public screen this year, it’s fair game to be on the list. Here we go!
Released on July 24, 2020. Available on digital download and On Demand from Magnet Pictures!
Directed by Romola Garai
Written by Romola Garai
Starring Alec Secareanu, Imelda Staunton, Carla Juri, Anah Ruddin, Angeliki Papoulia, Elowen Harris, Joseph Akubeze, Jacqueline Roberts, Yonah Odoom
While director Romola Garai plays fast and loose with the rules of the reality in AMULET, it still manages to be a bizarre and twisted horror movie unlike anything I’ve seen before. You might not completely understand it, but the film does manage to be a morbidly fascinating descent into hell.
An ex-soldier Tomas (Alex Secareanu) is homeless and living in an abandoned building when he is “rescued” by Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton) and handed over to stay in a decaying house with a peasant girl named Magda (WETLANDS’ Carla Juri) and her dying mother (Anah Ruddin). Tomas is reluctant to stay, as he doesn’t want to be a burden and Magda is less than kind to him upon meeting him. But when Tomas sees the burden her mother is upon Magda, he decides to stick around and help. The longer he stays in the house, the more unnatural the situation becomes as it seems Mother is dying of a mysterious ailment. As he develops feelings towards Magda, Tomas reflects upon past sins and decides to help Magda through this horrible situation, unbeknownst that there are evil forces at work hidden away in Mother’s room.
AMULET is an utterly original film. It’s not necessarily meant for mainstream audiences as the way the story flips between Tomas’ past and present really can be jarring at times. It’s also seems to be playing from a completely alien handbook, as if these characters are acting out their dramas in a completely foreign environment not discovered by man yet. Reminiscent of some of the more surreal films like DOGTOOTH, BASKIN, HOUSEWIFE, and the visually transcendental films of Ken Russell like ALTERED STATES and especially LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, AMULET deals with ancient religions, demons, monsters, deities, and otherworldly curses. There is no real explanation as to what is ailing Mother and what kind of monstrous situation Tomas has stumbled into, but by the end of the film, you get the gist of it, even though it is twisted and freaky as all get out. By the time, this one is through, you visit the past, the present, and other planes of existence. I found the film to be fascinating for the most part, but literal minded viewers are going to have a lot of trouble with the batshit crazy areas this film ventures to.
The imagery in AMULET, paired with the chanting soundtrack of primal screams and rhythms, is the ingredients for a truly nightmarish film experience. The film unleashes all sorts of horrifying monsters that I’ve never seen before. AMULET has a sort of mesmerizing feel to it. The film will transfix you with these sights and sounds that feel unearthly and forbidden. While AMULET does have some lulls towards the middle as Tomas develops feelings for Magda, it all feels like intricately carved puzzle pieces falling into place by the time the end reveal is uncovered. Actors Secareanu and Juri are enchanting to watch as it seems they are genuinely falling into love with one another, but in the end, the film feels much more nihilistic and almost punishes you for thinking it might end in a fairy tale way. Imelda Staunton has starred in many a great film and offers up a surprisingly spirited role here as Sister Claire, who seems to be pulling the strings of this entire warped marionette show.
Sure, I had questions at the end of AMULET. But the horror is so palpable and vague that any explanation wouldn’t be enough and they’re best left unanswered. AMULET should just be enjoyed for the truly odd gem that it is. You may be a bit queasy, freaked out, and downright disturbed by what transpires in AMULET, but I guarantee you’ll never forget it once it’s latched onto your psyche.
THE 2019-2020 COUNTDOWN!
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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