Wednesday, July 8, 2020

In Natalie Erika James' RELIC, characters peel away the present to discover the past


One of those What's-going-on-with-Granny? movies that proves -- for awhile, at least -- good enough to work on two out of three of the levels it tackles: horror and family history. Whether RELIC works on its third and probably most important level, which seemed to TrustMovies to be about unconditional love, will depend on how well this new film, the first full-lengther directed and co-written (with Christian White) by Natalie Erika James (shown below) holds and convinces you throughout its too-little-content-for-90-minutes running time.

Relic lost me around the mid-way point. I continued with it, but more out of a sense of reviewer's duty than enjoyment or interest. The plot follows a dutiful daughter (Emily Mortimer, above center) and her own daughter (Bella Heathcote, above, right) who come to visit Grandma (Robyn Nevin, above, left) because there seems to be a problem.

The two women arrive at an empty house with Gran missing. Once she returns, it is very soon clear that this old woman is a danger to herself and to others: a textbook example of someone who must be taken into some kind of protective custody.

But, instead of acting like intelligent, caring adults, mom and granddaughter turn into horror movie clich├ęs who waste our time by walking down long dark corridors for the usual effect but to no particular purpose. Chills melt, suspense flails and dies, and we realize most of this exists merely to provide filler and vamping.

So we wait for the conclusion that works as both metaphor and reality -- well, the reality of a horror movie, at least. And while it does prove somewhat interesting and different, it also arrives as too little too late. Ms Mortimer and Ms Heathcote are as good as their roles allow but only Ms Nevin rises to the memorable. She is simultaneously classy, scary and impressive indeed.

Cinematography, set design and special effects are also as good as possible, considering -- especially the manner in which the house is made to mirror the dementia of its occupant. Otherwise, though, Relic seem to me to be yet another example of an idea worth maybe forty minutes stretched to unseemly proportions.

From IFC Midnight, the movie hits select theaters, drive-ins and digital/VOD this Friday, July 10. Click here for more information.

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