Relic – Movie Review

Old people are freaky. So are little kids, but thankfully there are no little kids in Relic, the frightening new thriller starring Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote. 

Evil little kids would have just pushed things over the edge, so instead, thankfully, director Natalie Erika James relies solely on the disturbing antics of a grandma (Robyn Nevin) who may have dementia, or may be haunted by a nasty, disgusting spirit who has the potential to kill them all. 

You can guess which direction Relic heads.

Logging in at a taut 89 minutes, Relic leaves no second to waste and yet patiently sets the stage before unleashing its own version of hell. Mortimer, Heathcote, and Nevin are great, working from a solid screenplay by James and Christian Wright. The three actors form a believable and grounded on-screen matriarchy, which James spends ample time establishing before getting into the meat of the horror.

And the horror does come, quietly at first and then… not so quietly. As haunted house movies go–and to call this a haunted house film doesn’t do it justice, as it isn’t of your standard “things go bump in the night” variety–Relic isn’t as outwardly scary as some, but through sounds, imagery, and even the set design James has concocted a horror tale that nonetheless gets under the skin and starts clawing at you from the inside out.

Relic is the kind of horror movie in which you never feel safe. Even early on, even when James is just gearing things up, the movie and the house in which it resides reeks of foreboding. A heavy sense of dread weighs on every scene, punctuated by the grandmother–played wonderfully by Nevin–and her mysterious antics. Early on you get the sense that Mortimer and Heathcote’s characters don’t stand a chance, their only line of defense their own survival instincts which, suppressed by family bonds, is a perilous shield at best.

Relic is a scary little movie that easily stands as one of the year’s best horror movies. It’s also yet another reminder that old people are freaky as hell.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.


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