'Amelia's Children' Review: Dark Family Secrets Take a Disturbing Turn The Nerdy Basement

‘Amelia’s Children’ Review: Dark Family Secrets Take a Disturbing Turn

Learning about your family’s roots and ancestry should be a journey of fulfillment and happiness, and often sadness as we learn of what our ancestors had to deal with and the journey generations had to venture on for us to be here. Thus providing an understanding of the generational curses, burdens, and trauma passed down through our genetics. I can’t speak for myself or for anyone else who has ventured down the ancestral rabbit hole, but if Gabriel Abrantes’s film, ‘Amelia’s Children’ is anything to go by, I’m sure that this is an ancestral journey no one can fathom or wants to go through.

‘Amelia’s Children’ finds a man named Edward and his partner Ryley on the search for his biological family. With the help of an ancestry device that uses a blood sample to trace your DNA, Edward and Ryley locate Edward’s twin brother Manuel and make their way to Nothern Portugal to meet him and their biological mother. At first, things seem rather wholesome, this is a man who wants to connect with his biological family and has finally found them. But as the monster begins to emerge from the shadows, what ensues is a grotesque and visually disturbing revelation of the supernatural.

The opening scene sets up the supernatural aspects of the film which sees Edward taken away from his mother Amelia, played by both Anabela Moreira (old Amelia) and Alba Baptista (young Amelia). What is presented here is disturbing, yet gripping enough to keep the viewer intrigued by the film’s premise. However, Amelia’s Children fails to serve more of the supernatural aspects it teases for the sake of disturbing imagery and uninspired jump scares.

'Amelia's Children' Review: Dark Family Secrets Take a Disturbing Turn The Nerdy Basement
Brigette Lundy-Payne in AMELIA’S CHILDREN, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Amelia’s unsettling makeup leans into the overuse of plastic surgery and Botox, making for a quite nauseating presence every time Anabela Moreira is on the screen. The reasoning behind Amelia’s disfigurement and the extent to which she goes to “maintain” her youth is also a stomach-curling revelation. In the film’s favor, Moreira’s performance is one of the few things that makes the film such an engaging watch.

Brigette Lundy-Paine as Ryley is another reason to sit through some of the more painful slogs this film puts you through. Paine embodies the loving and supporting partner role to a tee and runs absolute circles around Carloto Cotta who in his own right is fulfilling three different roles. Unfortunately, for Cotta, his performance here is the weakest aspect of the film. There is no ounce of charisma or leading aura in his role as Edward and his role as Manuel, the twin brother is purely comical. I’m not sure if that was intentional but it is without a doubt one of the weaker aspects of the film.

In the same breath, I can commend the film for leaning into familiar horror tropes. This allows the film to slowly build up its tension and more anxiety-inducing moments, specifically when it comes to the hallucinogen-induced nightmares Edward and Ryley deal with while in this villa. Eventually leading up to the film’s big reveal even when it was a dead giveaway. This isn’t a film trying to subvert or reinvent known horror tropes or the horror genre as a whole. But it does take a piece of Portuguese folklore and leans into the supernatural aspects of it even if it’s all surface level.

'Amelia's Children' Review: Dark Family Secrets Take a Disturbing Turn The Nerdy Basement
Alba Baptista in AMELIA’S CHILDREN, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

I’ve watched quite a handful of horror films this year and out of all of the ones released this year so far, ‘Amelia’s Children’ has more than tickled my fancy. Fans of these kinds of horror films may, however, finish the film feeling quite underwhelmed, that’s all dependant on what you are expecting walking into this movie. Sure you’ll get the dimly lit rooms, the atmospheric horror, the horrid nightmares, and the occasional creepy crying babies and the grotesquity of seeing the bodies of dying babies but that can only go so far for some viewers especially if they are looking for more.

The film would’ve benefited from leaning into the more psychological effects of a journey like this one. This would’ve given the film a more psychological horror take than a supernatural one. Especially when Edward’s family has supernatural ties and goes above and beyond to sort of brainwash him into their bidding to keep his mother young. More so when the idea of incest is presented to Edward and he sort of brushes it off. Ultimately seeing it unfold is utterly disgusting and probably one of the hardest things I have had to stomach while watching a horror film, but thankfully that was kept at a minimum.

‘Amelia’s Children’ provides enough suspense and tension to keep you on the edge of your seat while also providing the cringe, stomach-turning moments that beg for you to gouge your eyes out. The narrative itself falters a bit with some less-than-captivating performances from its leading male star, but the leading ladies are more than enough to keep you locked in, and the film’s short runtime is just a bonus, hitting that perfect sweet spot.

Amelia’s Children arrives in theaters and VOD, this Friday, March 1st.

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