Review: ‘Amelia’s Children,’ starring Brigette Lundy-Paine, Carloto Cotta, Anabela Moreira, Alba Baptista and Rita Blanco

May 6, 2024

by Carla Hay

Brigette Lundy-Paine and Anabela Moreira in “Amelia’s Children” (Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing)

“Amelia’s Children”

Directed by Gabriel Abrantes

Some language in Portuguese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Portugal and briefly in New York City, the horror film “Amelia’s Children” features a cast of white and Hispanic characters (with one Asian person) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An American woman and her boyfriend visit his long-lost family in Portugal, where they find out dark secrets about his family. 

Culture Audience: “Amelia’s Children” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching boring horror movies that bungle what are supposed to be shocking plot twists.

Carloto Cotta and Brigette Lundy-Paine in “Amelia’s Children” (Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing)

“Amelia’s Children” is a tedious horror movie with mostly wooden acting in a story that has more insipid moping than any real scares. The characters react to twisted family secrets in ways that are hard to believe. The movie’s ending is atrocious.

Written and directed by Gabriel Abrantes, “Amelia’s Children” begins with a darkly lit and muddled scene of a woman (played by Alba Baptista) putting drops of an unnamed liquid in her baby’s milk. The woman lives in a mansion in an isolated area. Her name is not revealed until later in the film.

However, it’s easy to figure out who she is about 20 minutes into the movie when the mansion is revealed to be a certain mansion in Portugal. The baby is abducted at night from the house by a young woman (played by Beatriz Maia) and a man, whose identities are also revealed later in the movie. It’s enough to say that these opening scenes at the mansion are flashback scenes.

In present-day New York City, a man named Edward Eifus (played by Carloto Cotta) has been trying to find out who his biological family members are. He gets a phone call from a Woodland Foster Homes employee, who tells Edward that information is unknown about Edward’s biological parents. Soon after getting this disappointing news, Edward’s live-in girlfriend Riley (played by Brigette Lundy-Paine) gives Edward an Ancestry DNA kit for his 31st birthday.

Not long after setting up a profile with the DNA kit, Edward is contacted by a man named Manuel Castro (also played by Cotta), who says they are both a sibling match. Manuel lives with his mother Amelia (played by Anabela Moreira) in Portugal. Manuel tells Edward that Manuel had an identical twin who was kidnapped as an infant. Manuel and Edward both deduce that they are long-lost twins.

Manuel invites Edward and Riley to visit Manuel and Amelia at their mansion in Portugal. It’s the same mansion that was shown in the beginning of the movie. Edward and Riley rent a car in Portugal to drive to the mansion.

When they get lost on a fairly remote road, Riley and Edward stop and ask for directions from an elderly woman named Señora Vieira (played by Rita Blanco) and her male companion (played by Valdemar Santos), who are street vendors. Señora Vieira and her friend both react with disgust and fear when they find out that Edward and Riley are going to Amelia’s mansion. Señora Vieira later shares some valuable information with Riley.

Now that it’s been established that Edward was the kidnapped twin, and the mansion has a sinister history, most of “Amelia’s Children” is a monotonous, drawn-out tease in revealing why Edward was kidnapped and what’s so horrible about his long-lost family home. Viewers can tell the difference between Manuel and Edward because Manuel has long hair, and Edward has short hair.

From the beginning, it’s obvious that there’s something very weird about Amelia and Manuel, who both sleep in a snuggly way in the same bed, even though the house is big enough for Manuel to have his own bedroom. Amelia (who looks like she’s had botched plastic surgery) later introduces Edward to her two financial managers (played by Sónia Balacó and Ana Tang), by saying: “This is my new boyfriend. Isn’t he handsome?”

Amelia is also touchy-feely flirty with Edward and Manuel, who both act as if it’s all perfectly normal. And here’s an example of the movie’s awful dialogue: Amelia tells Riley soon after they meet: “Time is a whore. Time eats us like potatoes. … You have very sensual lips.” Amelia also seems obsessed with looking as young as possible.

And how does Riley feel about the creepy and incestuous tone of this family? When Riley tells Edward that she saw Amelia and Manuel sleeping in an inappropriate way in the same bed, Edward barely reacts. When Riley has had enough of this bizarre family, and she wants to leave, Edward responds by saying that Riley is overreacting and insists that Riley stay. Amelia is worth €65 million, but since this is a horror movie, you just know that Amelia’s fortune isn’t the real reason why Edward wants to stay.

When a horror movie reveals early on who the chief villain is, it’s up to the filmmakers to make sure there’s still a certain level of suspense in what will happen next. Unfortunately, everything is fairly easy to figure out in “Amelia’s Children” once it’s obvious that Amelia is up to no good. Lundy-Paine does an adequate job in her performance, but the other cast members give performances that are forgettable or substandard. Cotta is especially stiff with his acting.

“Amelia’s Children” certainly has some effective locations for its production design. The movie also has serviceable cinematography. But the story is too flawed to be covered up by visual aesthetics alone. The movie dilutes its terror with an ending that is more “hokey” than “shocking.” This idiotic ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel to “Amelia’s Children,” but a sequel is highly unlikely, since most viewers of “Amelia’s Children” won’t like the movie enough to want this flimsy and disappointing story to continue.

Magnet Releasing released “Amelia’s Children” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on March 1, 2024. The movie was released in Portugal on January 18, 2024.

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