Movie Review: Relic

I heard the other day that Paula Abdul has made a commercial touting an over-the-counter medication that people take for aches and pains. Yeah, that’s where we are in 2020, where ’80s pop stars are pitching stuff for old people. As a sometimes user of that product, I can tell you that getting old sucks. You go to sleep one night feeling young and vital, and then you wake up the next morning sounding like your grandfather as you hoist yourself out of bed. At least I still have my wits about me… I hope. The same cannot be said for Edna (Robyn Nevin), the matriarch in director and co-writer Natalie Erika James’ debut feature, RELIC. Edna is starting to lose her mind. However, the matter is not as straight-forward as it first seems.

As RELIC begins, Kay (Emily Mortimer, MARY POPPINS RETURNS), a middle-aged Melbourne woman, gets called to her mother’s rambling country home after a neighbour reports to the police that he hasn’t seen the old woman in a few days. Kay hasn’t spoken to Edna in weeks so she brings along her daughter, Sam (Bella Heathcote, PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN), ostensibly for the company but probably more for the emotional support she expects she’ll need. The old woman has disappeared, and when she turns up at home the next morning something is amiss. Edna is perfectly lucid and loving one moment, and irrational and angry the next. While Kay and Sam chalk up Edna’s behaviour to early onset dementia, it may be something more than that. Edna has developed a large dark bruise in the middle of her chest that she can’t explain and a black mold seems to be taking over the walls of her house.

RELIC is a fairly enjoyable horror flick. James has written a well-paced story that slowly builds in tension rather than relying on a succession of jump scares or the characters making dumb decisions for effect. The film is reminiscent of another Australian film, THE BABADOOK, which also deals with the monster that is inside of us, and it may lose out in that regard. The performances are all good though, particularly that of Nevin, who has had a successful career on the Australian stage and was the artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company for many years. You’ll find yourself wavering from feeling sorry for Edna to getting completely creeped out by her. Unfortunately, the film’s ending has proven to be divisive with some people calling it a bit of a cop out. I would tend to agree with that sentiment.

Critics seem to like RELIC far more than audiences do. I thought it was well made but wasn’t wowed by it. I would have brought out the spray bottle of bleach in the first act and I certainly wouldn’t have stuck around for as long as Kay and Sam did. Guilt can be a powerful motivator though.

Decide for yourself. RELIC is currently available on Amazon Prime, iTunes and a few other VOD platforms.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, July 17th, 8:30 am HK time!

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