Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.
While a bit too heavy-handed in the employment of its central theme, Relic ultimately crafts a uniquely disturbing picture from both a human perspective and a supernatural one.
When Kay’s (Emily Mortimer) mother Edna (Robyn Nevin) goes missing she heads there with her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote). As someone who lives alone and suffers from dementia, the two search and waits, unsure of where the matriarch could be. A few days later she reappears and doesn’t seem shaken by the occurrence, but the doctor recommends she not be alone for a couple of weeks. Edna’s fragile mindset continues to get worse, and her behavior is increasingly erratic. She’s unsure if her family is in fact her family, and as she continues to lose herself, it leaves the audience wondering if there’s something else happening. Something inherently sinister.
Co-writer/director Natalie Erika James finds the scares in the discomfort, in the shadows ad the darkened rooms of the house. In the sadness for years passed, and the delicacy of life. There are a lot of moments that are genuinely creepy and simultaneously heartbreaking. Relic builds a foreboding presence that settles into the gloomy home that is deteriorating around them.
After what starts as a slow-burn piece about family and aging eventually takes on a new skin, one that’s shrouded in dark corners, secret rooms that never seem to end (it becomes a dizzying maze), and a volatile and haunting version of Edna. The three generations of women in the film are all exceptional, and a feature debut from Natalie Erika James Relic is incredibly encouraging, and I look forward to seeing what she does next.
The practical effects utilized and the excellent production design are both immensely strong, with some shots that’ll have you covering your eyes, and yet not able to look away.
Hauntingly imagined, Relic doesn’t execute a lot in the form of subtleties, but it overcompensates in its message and makes up for it in poignancy and unforgettable imagery.