Relic Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Released by Signature Entertainment
Directed by Natalie Erika James
Written by Natalie Erika James and Christian White
2020, 89 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Frightfest screening on 24th October 2020
Robyn Nevin as Edna
Emily Mortimer as Kay
Bella Heathcote as Sam
In many ways, Relic plays out like your traditional bump-in-the-night flick, revelling in all the classic trappings of a gothic haunted house horror – unexplained creaking in the walls, nightmarish imagery and spooky apparitions. But, as it soon transpires, there's much more to Natalie Erika James' feature debut that dangles above its paranormal undertone.
When widowed family matron Edna (Robyn Mevin) goes missing, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) gather at her remote home in rural Victoria to start a search party. But it isn't just a muddied, dementia-stricken Edna they find, as they begin to be consumed not only by the escalating disease but also something lurking in the walls of the house.
Its familial themes of aging, loneliness and the responsibility of family caregiving, and the innate cruelty of dementia, are tenderly handled by James from each of the three generation's perspectives, as Edna's increasing confusion and despair is painfully observed by her helpless offspring. It's perhaps not surprising considering Relic heavily draws on the Australian-Japanese co-writer/director's own personal experience: James too ventured back to the rural Japanese town she spent time in as a child to see her grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer's.
Kay, the intrepid, level-headed mother in the middle, is torn between what's best for both her mother and daughter, while Sam is desperate to do right by her suffering grandmother – and all three lead performances are as powerful as the dramatic tension and subject matter demands. As Edna's deterioration physically manifests in the increasing decay of the house, right to its harrowing, heart-pounding climax, the compassion never wavers.
An eerie slow-burn that bravely blends the monstrous with the melancholy, Relic is a sharp, confident and poignant debut that, above all, succeeds to relentlessly drill a feeling of atmospheric terror into its audience. It's drama and dread in perfect harmony, and spotlights Natalie Erika James as one to look out for.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.