starring Carla Juri, Alec Secareanu, Angeliki Papoulia, Imelda Staunton
written and directed by Romola Garai
by Walter Chaw Romola Garai makes her directorial debut with the gnarly, self-described "feminist" horror film Amulet, which doesn't tread much new ground until, suddenly, it does. It's a lovely debut, smart and fruitfully repugnant--an able showcase for Garai as a filmmaker possessed of a nice sense of pacing and a good, gothic eye for object placement and gore. One scene, taking place in the musty attic of a crumbling old house, made me feel exactly the way I felt the first time I saw Clive Barker's Hellraiser, back when I was a teenager and easier to freak out. Something about unnatural births, and all that, and unexpected apertures opening with unexpected wetness, carried off with this impeccable feeling for archetypally disturbing ideas. Telling more would be telling, but from that point on--about two-thirds of the way in--Amulet not only had my attention, it also had my respect.
What begins as just another yarn about crazy bitches and their mothers, in other words, swiftly becomes one about how men, born violent and marinated in rage, are incapable of expressing any emotion other than anger, and also incapable of seeing women as anything other than a thing to be first worshipped, then loathed. Amulet bathes itself in gynecological fluids literal and figurative. It presents female anatomy and bodily function as unimaginably alien for men and, consequently, as the wellspring of masculine notions of horror. The final sequences represent the gender inversion of the post-rape hallucinations of Repulsion, and Tomaz's pathetic promise to keep and protect Magda from harm becomes its own sort of fantasy of imprisonment and enslavement. Amulet reminds, too, of Takashi Miike's Audition in that way, exploding sex roles in the courtship ritual by dissecting the inherent violence of objectification in object choice. You can't have one without the other, it seems, and when Tomaz entires a vaginal tunnel that appears in his room to encounter the fruits of his desires, it's...well, it's the kind of thing of which great cautionary tales are made. Programme: Midnight