relic_ver2STARS4The Unforgiven is a western with Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn from 1960.  Unforgiven is a 1992 western directed and starring Clint Eastwood.  Heat is a 1995 crime drama with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.  The Heat is a 2013 crime comedy featuring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock.  The pantheon of two distinct movies whose titles are merely differentiated by an article “The” just added a new member.  The Relic is a 1997 horror flick with Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore.  This current release Relic is a 2020 horror movie starring Emily Mortimer.  However, it begins rather peacefully as a drama.  That’s part of what makes this narrative so compelling.  It ever so gradually lures you into its web of dread.

Relic is shrewdly built around a simple premise.  What will happen when our parents age?  The story is about a concerned woman named Kay (Emily Mortimer).  Her mother Edna (Robyn Nevin) goes missing and so she takes a trip out to the dilapidated old mansion where she lives and brings her own adult daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) along for moral support.  Kay’s mother does indeed show up again but she seems…..a little strange.  At first we the audience wonder if Edna is suffering from dementia, but then there are these weird sounds and shadowy figures that sort of appear in the nooks and crannies of the house.  It’s beautifully photographed at times exploiting the eerie vacant spaces of a large house as Kubrick did in The Shining.  These events justify that Edna’s fears might be based on very real things.

First time director Natalie Erika James does an excellent job at presenting this narrative.  It’s profoundly unsettling because it truly makes us understand the same experience as this trio of women.  We begin to question what is mental illness and what are supernatural forces?  Actress Robyn Nevins is like two distinct people as the aging matriarch.  When Edna gifts a ring to her granddaughter it’s a sweet gesture from a loving grandmother.  The very next day she angrily demands why Sam has stolen the ring when she notices it on her finger.  The scene suggests senility but Edna almost appears possessed, a completely different person.  It’s very effective.

Relic may be a spartan tale but it feels deep because of the thoughtful performances.  Director James adds all sorts of little touches to give these women a soul.  Edna’s home is littered with a collection of sticky notes as reminders to do menial tasks.  She has a hobby of carving candles, large bulky pieces whose wax has been twisted to form intricate shapes.  Meanwhile, Kay and her daughter Sam have a strained relationship.  Sam’s aimless job is a point of contention while Kay’s preoccupation with her own career has left poor Edna neglected.  Actress Emily Mortimer is always good.  As Kay, she exhibits fragility while still seeming intelligent and capable.  The thespian wields her vulnerability like a weapon that compels audiences to care.  If you enjoy horror flicks that are creepy without being overly graphic, then I highly recommend this film.  I quite enjoyed it.


6 Responses to “Relic”

  1. I love moody and eerie horror movies. A dark silhouette In the background gets me every time. I agree with the acting. Very good. 4 stars.


  2. I think I’m the perfect audience for a movie like this. I really like Emily Mortimer and haven’t seen her in enough stuff lately.


  3. Mark, do you think this could be among the best horror movies of the year?

    ***spoiler alert***

    what did you think of the ending? when the daughter decides to stay with her ‘mother’ and the three of them lay down together. thats a memorable ending.


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