Relic should be a horror movie. It looks like a horror movie and feels like a horror movie, but it isn’t a horror movie. For some, this would be disappointing to hear. That’s understandable, but knowing what it isn’t beforehand could actually help you take a liking to much of what the movie has to offer.
The film is based around the disappearance of Edna (Robyn Nevin), an elderly woman living with increasing signs of dementia. Once she inexplicably vanishes, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) arrive to manage the family’s decaying home. While doing so, Edna returns just as mysteriously as she vanished. Her return should relieve some stress, but an insidious presence that seems to have come back with her refuses to let that happen.
Knowing and accepting what Relic is from the start may make it easier to embrace its overall content before and during your viewing experience. Once again, it’s not a scary movie, but that’s not to say that you won’t notice the elements of horror throughout the film. They’re noticeable right from the start and never truly go away at any point.
As far as its actual classification, I’ve seen Relic listed as a thriller. I can kind of see that when thinking about it, but even that’s still a hard genre to place it in. In my mind, I simply see it as mystery/drama. Since you don’t completely know what’s going on as things take shape, your left to try to figure it out on your own as things progress.
The more dramatic aspects of Relic come from the performances. With the exception of Robyn Nevin (who plays Edna) at times, none of the other actors really play this as if it’s anything but a drama for the first two acts. It’s an odd position to be in as an actor when thinking about it. You’re in a movie that feels like a horror film (especially the final act), but you have to play it as if you’re performing in something that’s completely different.
Even while all of the weird and mysterious things are taking place, these actors could very well be in a movie that’s simply about three generations of women moving through different phases of life together. If the horror elements are removed completely, that’s basically what you get anyway. I don’t know if this was done purposely, but it helps in adding some value to it all.
Throughout everything that’s included, the most important factor in Relic is the air of mystery that’s flowing through it. You’re left wondering what’s going to happen at times because of how things are unfolding and how the actresses portray the characters. This proves to be vital overall for the simple fact that the movie is pretty slow and would leave you with not much else to do at certain periods. If the mystery was completely removed, most people would probably have a hard time making through the entire 90 minutes of runtime.
And in spite of knowing all of this, you may very well still leave Relic feeling confused by the end of it all. And it won’t be because it doesn’t necessarily fit into one specific genre. It will mostly have to do with the events taking place and what it’s all supposed to mean. For some, taking some time to digest it will allow them to figure it out, but others may still have issues with understanding the hidden meanings behind the film’s content.
In spite of Relic not being able to comfortably fit into one genre, Natalie Erika James is able to deliver a well-made movie in her first try out. She does this by developing a certain tone and using various elements of different genres to tell her story and get her point across. Now, some people won’t like this movie at all and the number of issues that they will have with it are clear. For some, it will be too slow and confusing. And of course, plenty of people will also be highly disappointed by the fact that it isn’t a horror movie.
Director: Natalie Erika James
Natalie Erika James
Film Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: July 10th, 2020
Distributor: IFC Midnight
- Score - 6.5/106.5/10