TFW Your Jewelry is CURSED: The Amulet by Michael McDowell

Meet The Amulet, the most travelin’ piece of jewelry around. It passes from heir to heir to heir and when it clasps  around your neck, you find yourself with an unquenchable thirst to kill. The only catch (though the catch on the necklace is invisible and unbreakable) is once you kill, your turn comes shortly and gruesomely thereafter.

It saves the taxpayers quite a bit on trials and such.

Welcome to Pine Cone, Alabama, where the wives are all haranguing, and the husbands much harangued. It’s a mean little town kept alive only by the Pine Cone Munitions factory, and it’s about to be a whole less alive once The Amulet is done wreaking its bloody havoc.

Poor Sarah Howell finds herself suddenly caring for her comatose husband, Dean, whose bandaged face hides the damage done by an exploding rifle before he can be sent off to fight in Vietnam. Her hateful mother-in-law Jo Howell blames the entire town for Dean’s injuries; she makes a gift of The Amulet and chaos descends.

McDowell’s sense of location is on point, all dirty southern heat and dusty southern roads. His inventive deaths are gruesome predecessors to the death-porn franchises of Final Destination and Saw. Even though events grow more and more ludicrous as the Amulet passes from person to person (there’s a ceiling fan scene that quite defies belief), it’s too late. You’ve picked up the Amulet and it won’t let go until you pay the final price.

*Applesauce and Lye

  • Jo Howell joins McDowell’s memorable matriarchs alongside Big Barbara (The Elementals) and Hannah Slape (Katie.) She is a particular breed of nasty. Listen when she denies to Sarah that the amulet is some kind of cursed: “A amulet don’t work, Sarah, it just sits there. It’s got no moving parts, it’s not like a watch. What can it do? You saw the thing. It was just a piece of metal with a chain on it. Got it from Montgomery Ward.” Sick burn, Jo!

    Published 1979, 5th printing, Avon Books

    I love cheesy 80’s horror covers. See the amulet in the corner? I imagined it a little different. I also couldn’t figure out if those people were just randos or supposed to be characters. Look! They’re all tangled up in the chain! And there’s blood! Trigger warning: This is “A NOVEL OF PURE TERROR.”

  • Reading Tunes Recs: Bottom of the River by Delta Rae, Southern Gothic playlist by Spotify


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