Coming July 10th you can watch Relic as a Stan Original in Australia and, Shudder in the USA. A thriller from Australia and a directorial debut for its writer Natalie Erika James. This title hit Sundance in early 2020 so there are already a few opinions on it floating around. It’s obvious though that Relic is special.
The filmmakers comprise a long list of heavy hitters with producers like Jake Gyllenhall (Nightcrawler), Mike Larocca and, Todd Makurath (21 Bridges), and Anna McLeish (The Snowtown Murders) to name a few. Alongside distribution from IFC Midnight, Relic is definitely a film you would be remiss not to seek out. With a story that works on various levels, it doesn’t string you along with jump-scares. It also certainly wants you to try and escape the reality of its underlying sickness and instead follow the spirits that are obviously haunting this house.
If you’re an avid per viewer of trailers, what you see is exactly what you’re going to get. It speaks to the general nature of the story being a blend of supernatural tics, scary old ladies, and creepy happenings. If you read the synopsis Relic is not trying to hide that the underlying theme is a dementia addled family coming to grips with the changing of their beloved mother. But what is she changing into? The result is a perfect mesh of all these elements.
Relic Trailer Australian Thriller 2020
Kay, Edna, and Sam. Three Generations of Women
Kay is the daughter of Edna, a woman who lives alone on the family estate. When Edna goes missing, Kay and her daughter Sam make their way to the house. Although aware that Edna has been in a slow decline of her faculties, once inside they discover many clear signs that things may have deteriorated quite a bit more. Yellow post-it notes adorn many surfaces of the home. Cat food has been placed in the kitchen for a long passed family pet and a fruit bowl sits rotting in the kitchen. Kay and Sam search for Edna over the course of a few days. Finally, Kay walks into the kitchen to find her mother making a cup of tea. She’s dirty and has a varying array of marks and bruises on her body but oblivious to the fuss she has been at the center of.
“I Thought This Was Where it Got In”
Edna’s behavior reminds me of Nana, in the horror film The Visit (2015.) Had I not seen that particular movie, I wouldn’t have applied the term sundowning to what I was seeing here. It’s a symptom of dementia that causes an extra kick of confusion which just happens to come on as darkness moves in. Most of Edna’s more pronounced swings utilize the late afternoon into the night which certainly turns up the atmospheric tension.
Somehow Relic strikes a chord in many ways. It covers so much of what many of us have experienced with our own loved ones that I was quite taken aback in the finale. Unlike when I watched Hereditary, which also touches on aspects of dementia, Relic hit me right in the feels right at the moment it happened. It’s in the final act this movie will divide viewers. Many will be waiting for that topped out crescendo. The one that explains and points out what we have just seen. For myself, it couldn’t have chosen a better ending but I can see that there will be some shade thrown around by those that like their conclusions to be clear.
“This House Seems Unfamiliar, Bigger Somehow”
What will strike many who pay attention to sound design is that in Relic, it strengthens what is already beautiful in its design. It feels like everything is washed in the gallows of a large old boat adrift on the sea. Creaking and a patter of something dragging over a wood surface marks many of the films more sinister moments. Press notes describe the score as gleaned from non-instrumental sounds rather than musical and I really loved that aspect of it. It was also mentioned that Relic was inspired by Natalie James’ own experience with her grandmother who went through this terrible disease of the mind.
Performances here are fantastic. Relic is very much a character-driven story and given the multi-generational cast, it’s east to relate to all three-time frames of this family. The aging mother who begins to lose focus as the world becomes a strange and scary place. The middle-aged mother has to watch and wonder whether she too will succumb to the same. And the daughter to both who simply wants to save the people she loves from the pain they are in.
I give Relic
4 outer shells out of 5
Watch Relic on Shudder and Stan
- Director: Natalie Erika James
- Cast: Emily Mortimer (NOTTING HILL), Bella Heathcote (THE NEON DEMON), Robyn Nevin (THE MATRIX)
- Runtime: 90 mins
- Festivals: 2020 Sundance Film Festival, 2020 SXSW
- Genre: Thriller
- More thrillers that kick you in the guts: Hereditary / The Nightingale / Swerve / The Other Lamb
- Movies on Shudder: Creepshow Season 2 / Random Acts of Violence