Relic Movie Review

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: After the disappearance of her elderly mother, a woman and her daughter arrive to help discover what happened. Things become all the more terrifying when the missing woman shows up, seemingly out of nowhere.

REVIEW: Horror can be most effective when it takes on a familiar form. No, not a masked maniac with a knife. And no monsters under the bed. Sometimes it's the simple act of getting older than can be the most frightening. In the new film RELIC, a family deals with the crippling effects of dementia, and just how it affects those left to deal with the complications. The new feature directed by Natalie Erika James is, at times, a harrowing tale, one that will be especially effective for those who've dealt with the real-world aspects of this in their lives.  The film stars Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote, and Robyn Nevin, and all three performances are a highlight to this moody thriller.

Kay (Mortimer) and her daughter Sam (Heathcote) return to their family home after the disappearance of their mother Edna (Nevin). Seemingly vanishing into thin air, the two try and find clues to her whereabouts while dealing with the mess she left behind. However, things begin to get worse when their mother finally shows up out of nowhere. Both Kay and Sam hear strange noises in the walls, and Edna's return brings more questions than answers. As the two try and help her deal with her increasingly aggressive behavior, the old and debilitated house appears to be suffering from its owner's mental state.

Relic, Bella Heathcote, Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, Natalie Erika James, horror,

There's been a series of incredibly smart horror thrillers over the past few years that don't rely on blood and gore. Movies that take on personal stories while building on a quiet, yet horrific, situation. RELIC is one of those films. While you could certainly consider this a sort of haunted house thriller, its take on the real horror of dementia and aging is the most frightening aspect. Instead of ghostly visions and scary sounds, there is a strange and atmospheric layer that adds to this personal tale. What makes this haunting feature effective is a simple fact that dementia can be one of the most frightening and heartbreaking things a family must deal with.

The performances here are all terrific. The family dynamic between Mortimer, Heathcote, and Nevin is stunning. The three play off of each other beautifully. There is a delicate balance in the relationship between the actors. Kay hopes to find a possible living situation for her mother, while Sam feels a deep love for her grandmother and would like to be there for her. There are a couple of lovely moments between Sam and Edna that offer a bit of heart to this dark and unsettling tale. These three performances help ground this already emotional story into something personal and oftentimes, quite effective.

Relic, Natalie Erika James, Bella Heathcote, Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, horror,

As strong as this story is, the final act is something of a mess. Without getting into details – as it would be very spoiler heavy – the final sequence is a strange one. It's also one that is visually disturbing and strangely gruesome. Having the aspect of dealing with a severe brain disease mixed with a little body horror is certainly a compelling idea. And the films final moments take the viewer down a very strange rabbit hole, one that may perhaps play better on a second viewing. Either way, for her feature film directorial debut, Natalie Erika James has certainly given us something fresh and relevant.

RELIC is a fascinating film. And while the ending didn't quite live up to the disturbing and personally devastating storyline, it's certainly one that sticks with you. With three impressive leading performances from Mortimer, Heathcote, and Nevin, the director has plenty to explore. From the heartbreaking consequences of dementia to the hidden secrets of a family's past, this modern horror tale is an intriguing journey. Impressively shot by cinematographer Charlie Sarroff, with a moody score by Brian Reitzell, this modern tale of horror is a solid feature film debut from this new voice in genre.





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