Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Amelia’s Children: uma familia malvada em Portugal

It would be fitting if Edward’s girlfriend bought him a DNA/ancestry test kit from the same company that the orphaned protagonist in The Invitation used. They must offer a discount for supernatural weirdos. In this case, Edward is not related to vampires, but he was definitely better off not knowing his family roots in Gabriel Abrantes’ Amelia’s Children, which opens Friday in New York.

For years, Edward yearned to reconnect with his biological family, but there were no leads in his adoption file. For his birthday, his girlfriend Riley gives him a DNA testing kit and a few days later he is getting messages from his brother Manuel. Make that his twin brother Manuel, as Edward and Riley are rather surprised to learn when they visit the family castelo in northern Portugal.

Edward also finally meets his mother Amelia, who is old and infirm, yet still strangely vain and coquettish. She and Manuel clearly have a close relationship—perhaps to a disturbing extent. However, he is so delighted to finally have a mother, he ignores the glaring warning signs that alarm Riley. For instance, she wonders why nobody ever speaks of Edward’s father?

Amelia’s Children
has a lurid throwback Euro-horror vibe that is rather entertaining in a trashy and nostalgic kind of way. This is definitely a hot-blooded film that winkingly implies shocking transgressions, but keeps things mainly within traditional horror movie bounds. The gothic trappings add a lot and the Portuguese sounds correctly translated.

Carloto Cotta chews the scenery like a genre pro while sporting Manuel’s Fabio-style coif and he is convincingly (even annoyingly) needy and neurotic as regular Edward. Brigette Lundy-Paine helps elevate the reasonably forceful Riley above typically stock horror movie girlfriends, while the heavily make-up-and-prosthetic-laden Anabela Moreira is uncomfortably creepy as old mother Amelia.

Yet, cinematographer Vasco Viana, art designer Paula Szabo, and the rest of the design team contribute more directly to atmosphere of gothic corruption, which is what makes
Amelia’s Children what it is. It is more than a bit messy, but the potent dark vibe helps compensate for a lot. Recommended for fans of old school Euro-horror, Amelia’s Children opens this Friday (3/1) at the IFC Center.