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Review: ‘Relic’ (2020) – Best (Worst) Classed Up Hagsploitation Movie of the Year

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Review: 'Relic' (2020) - Best (Worst) Classed Up Hagsploitation Movie of the Year

Every once in a while, a movie comes along with all the promise in the world. It’s got the right poster, it gets the right kind of buzz, the trailer is super exciting. This year, it seemed like that movie was going to be Relic, an Australian picture from director/co-writer Natalie Erika James. Relic has the look. The trailer and poster evoked just enough of that Hereditary familiarity. It reminds us of other, critically-supported creepy movies. The star is Emily Mortimer, who you’ll recognize from her performance in critically-supported, creepy Shutter Island. The old woman at the trailer’s center looks just like the scary old lady in the trailer for It: Chapter 2. The trailer only hints at horror so we don’t even know what kind of movie it’s going to be. Will it be paranormal horror? Folk horror? Are they remaking The Visit, here?

The answer, it turns out, doesn’t come at all! Ever! There’s no telling what this movie’s about. Sure, we’re able to piece together what the filmmakers think this movie is about, but it’s a far stretch from what we see. If your life depended on a succinct explanation as to what Relic is about, you wouldn’t live to see the sequel (which I hope is not produced). There are moments of memorable imagery, there are moments that feel like they could be tender. But these moments do not a horror story make.

You’ll sit down, with the lights out, maybe a cup of tea by your side, ready to be scared. And then about a half an hour/forty minutes into this thing, you’re going to need to turn the lights on. Not because it’s scary, though. You’ll turn the lights on because you’ll think to yourself “Damn, where did the story just fall out from behind the screen and roll around on my carpet?” Grab a flashlight and a magnifying glass too, because you’re going to be searching for a long while.

Relic 2020 Movie Still

Rarely is a movie so bogged down by its own undercooked mythology. So many ideas get introduced, it feels like the screenwriters were just throwing everything at the wall. There’s this recurring thing with mold that’s never properly served, nor does it serve the story well in any way. Same story without the mold, honestly, and you’d save on bleach afterwards, too.

Halfway through, we’re introduced to this house somewhere on the main character’s property that isn’t there anymore. First we’re shown pictures, then we see the house in somebody’s daydream or nightmare or boredom-induced hallucination. But here’s the thing: The house doesn’t matter a single damn in the events of this movie! Unless we’re supposed to believe that this is where the mold originated in which case… Mold can come from anywhere! We don’t need all this artsy-fartsy dream sequence foreshadow-y BS.

None of the characters matter in this story. At all. There are three women who are defined by their age. The eldest, the grandmother, is kind of the center piece here. She has no motivation, so she’s probably not  a villain. But she also has no descriptive characteristics, so she sure as hell isn’t the protagonist either! Then there’s her daughter, who probably is the closest we have to a main character. You find out her name is Kay, and that’s exactly how you’ll feel anytime anything happens.

Relic 2020 Movie Old Women Still

Some supposed-to-be-shocking revelation?

“k…”

Some solid effects work showing off some gory makeup work?

“k…”

The characters are in peril?

“…k?”

The closest thing this picture has to lifeblood is Sam, the youngest of the three women here. She’s the old lady’s granddaughter and the regular lady’s daughter. She’s… In college? It’s no that this fact is in any way ambiguous, it’s just that this is the ONLY FACT ABOUT HER. We have nothing to hold onto here. And when the rooms start shrinking and the walls start edging inward, crushing Sam, we can’t relate or sympathize AT ALL, because she’s hardly human.

Relic 2020 Bella Heathcote

Relic is an exercise in broken promises. The trailer promises to be very scary. Survey says? The movie’s a snooze. Nothing, and I do not mean this in an exaggerated way, happens at all. There are mysterious events, none of which are explained or even given enough time for emotional resonance, and then there are credits. That was probably my favorite part of this whole movie. The end credits.

Relic is available to buy on Vudu and Apple TV. It boasts a tell-tale FORTY TWO POINT DIFFERENCE between its Critics Rating and its Audience Rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t know who has been paid to write favorable reviews for this movie, but rest assured dear reader, I am not party to this deceit.

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