Plot – A daughter, mother and grandmother are haunted by a manifestation of dementia that consumes their family’s home – Relic.
Director – Natalie Erica James
Released – 2020
While The Babadook took a horror film and made it about the effects of an unsympathetic society on a grieving single mother with a disabled child. Relic focuses on the frightening effects that dementia can have not only on the person diagnosed with this monstrous disease but also the person’s loved ones, who have to witness someone they care about slowly disintegrate. This is a dark and twisted atmospheric movie that mostly forgoes the jump-scares and tired cliches to create a sophisticated, but forceful horror movie that builds suspense right up to its surprising finale.
Anybody who has seen director Adam Robitel’s The Taking Of Deborah Logan (2014) will discover a lot in common with Relic. Remarkably well-made and stylish in its delivery, Natalie Erica James moviemaking debut doesn’t treat horror like a device only to scare but also enlighten. As someone who has experienced the effects of Alzheimer’s first hand, Edna’s (Nevlin) deteriorating condition felt early familiar (minus the demonic possession that is). Slowly and almost under the radar, the afflicted will lose their grip on reality, eventually unable to form rational thoughts, and often this frustration and fear turns to anger and leads to them lashing out. Shown through the prism of body-horror, this is precisely the path that Edna goes down, taking her disheartened daughter (Mortimer) and granddaughter (Heathcote) along for the ride. Relic isn’t scary because of the supernatural elements, it’s scary because of its realism.
Much like The Lighthouse and Midsommer, this is a film that goes beyond what most are used to from the horror genre; it’s not about ghosts, ghouls, and ferocious monsters producing unrealistic levels of blood & gore, but instead, the fears and anxieties that hide inside all of us. These are the films that prove horror can be one of the most versatile genres, able to tackle subjects in such a way that entertains as well as inform.
The only issues I could discern with Relic stemmed from a few cheesy and inevitably clichéd moments that popped up in the last moments when all logic and realism went firmly out the window, complete with a few jump-scares and strange character decisions. That said, Relic remains an interesting and entertaining horror that you can only truly appreciate once you’ve watched it a couple of times, each time spotting things you had previously overlooked.