Sunday 12 July 2020

Relic (Movie Review)

Whenever a horror film starts to get mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Hereditary and The Babadook, you can be sure that it is only a matter of time before it gets on my radar. The problem with such comparisons though is they can function like a double-edged sword. It can serve to build up hype, but in so doing, also set a viewer up for disappointment should it fail to meet expectations.

Thankfully, Relic manages to live up to its hype, and doesn't squander its intriguing premise the way other horror films tend to. Not to be confused with the similarly-titled 1997 horror film, this 2020 film tells the story of three generations of women, and the family secret that ties them together.

The oldest of the three women is named Edna (Robyn Nevin), and she lives alone at her aging family home in a remote Australian village. The thing is Edna is at that age where others start to doubt she still has full control of her mental faculties. So when she is reported missing by the neighbors, her daughter, Kay (Emily Mortimer), makes the long-overdue trip back home to find her.

Kay is joined by her own daughter, Sam (Bella Heathcote), a fiery young adult with a propensity to make brass decisions. Together with the local police, they launch a search party into the neighboring woods. And while taking up residence in the old house with her daughter, Kay starts to experience visions of an old man dying alone in a remote cabin. But when Edna suddenly reappears one morning, refusing to reveal where she had been, it slowly becomes clear that there is something dark and sinister at play.

Relic is an allegorical tale that explores the very human fear of dying of old age, and the effects that aging can have on both the mind and body. It also sheds light on the helplessness felt by those going through the physical and mental changes that go along with the process, as well as those that have to watch the ones they love continue to deteriorate. But it is the fact that the subject matter is explored with such mastery of the art of filmmaking that allows the movie to truly shine.

Tension is slowly built over the course of the movie's 90-minute runtime, and we watch as the house inhabited by the three women gradually changes into something old and otherworldly, mirroring the transformative effects of aging. Of the three women, Robyn Nevin gives the most noteworthy performance, perfectly capturing the essence of an old woman losing grip of reality. But it is actually Emily Mortimer's portrayal of her daughter that tugs at the heartstrings the most.

Relic is simultaneously beautiful and grotesque. But I must preface that high praise by also saying that the movie is not for everyone. It has a slow-burn buildup and a twist (or more appropriately, twisted) ending that might not sit right with everyone. But if you have the stomach for body horror, and you prefer your horror films taking the "less is more" approach, then there's plenty to love about what's on offer here.


  1. I didn't like either Hereditary or The Babadook, so I think I'll skip this one.

    1. Fair enough. These types of horror films tend to be highly subjective.