North Texas Daily

‘Relic’ is promising debut but decays in its execution

‘Relic’ is promising debut but decays in its execution

‘Relic’ is promising debut but decays in its execution
July 26
10:35 2020

“Everything decays.”

Upon seeing the strong word-of-mouth buzz and comparisons to “Hereditary” and “The Babadook” that “Relic” reaped before it’s release, I was quite looking forward to another solid horror film since there hasn’t really been one that’s stuck out to me recently. After seeing it’s 91% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the hype grew more from there. Now, having seen it, I dare say “Relic” is a case of major overhype that doesn’t quite match all of the positive things I’ve read about it for weeks.

It’s certainly not a bad film though. It’s a very strong directorial debut from Natalie Erika James, who clearly has an eye for the horror genre. There aren’t very many in-your-face, jump-out-of-your-seat scares lurking behind the dark corners of the dilapidated house at the center of the film, but the atmospheric tone of the film is chilling and certainly made me feel uneasy at all the right times.

James’ camera swoops and swoons over around this house and over our character’s faces, while optimally keeping it center during times if necessary, letting the viewer’s eye linger on the screen to take a second look back into a corner to double check if you really did see that thing in the corner you thought you did the first time.  It’s very effective and helps to set that dark atmosphere and tone that lingers about.

If anything, “Relic” made me more interested to see what James can do next with a bigger budget and some more room to really flex her muscles. There’s certainly notions of strong creativity here, but I can only imagine what James could achieve with a budget about 10 times more than what “Relic” had.

I’m not quite sure the comparisons to “Hereditary” or “The Babadook” are earned either. And if anything, I feel they set the film up to fail against a general audience. Despite “Relic’s” metaphorical approach to illness and troubling familial dynamics, the comparisons to those other two films really stop there. “Hereditary” got more love from the general audience than “The Babadook” surely did, but I still feel comparing “Relic” to both of these does a disservice to the film and not only because they’re obviously different films.

The general audience will likely be more responsive to this than “The Babadook” but will likely dismiss it against “Hereditary,” placing it solely between the two, or behind the two in terms of its appeal to them. This sentiment does apply to me, but I love both “Hereditary” and “The Babadook” and I would place “Relic” behind the both of them in no comparison.

Of course they’re all fundamentally different films, albeit with some similar themes, but I can still recognize “Relic” as the impressive, intelligent debut that it so is. It has a lot more on its mind than many horror films that have been released at least in this year. The execution of these ideas is firm, I just wish the film was longer so it could expand even further on its ideas of loneliness and how dementia can affect an entire family, not just the person who has it.

While I don’t think “Relic” succeeds in everything it tries, it does serves as an auspicious calling card for writer/director James who certainly deserves a big budget horror tentpole after this.

”Relic” is available to rent on iTunes now. 

Final rating: 3/5

Featured Image: Courtesy IFC Midnight

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Spencer Kain

Spencer Kain

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