Directed by Natalie Erika James
Starring Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote, Robyn Nevin
The horror of ageing rears its ugly head in the new Australian film Relic, a drama-horror that gets caught up in its own ambition. There’s initial dread to be felt for these characters and the home they’re mostly confined to, though Relic can’t quite get the most out of its genre to really make it terrify, linger, or even quite emotionally connect.
When Edna (Robyn Nevin) goes missing from her secluded house, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) go there to find her, but she shows up a couple of nights later, with little recollection of where she was and very little concern over her disappearance. Kay and Sam start to suspect Alzheimer’s is beginning in Edna, but this disease is having a grand effect on not just her, but her house as well.
Relic is admirable for attempting a metaphor for Alzheimer’s within the horror genre, but this attempt falls through as its horror world is hardly built to completion. The horror moments that make up this metaphor aren’t anything new, but they work fine enough to put together a picture of this disease. These three characters are a bit hard to get into, as they are blandly written, and as for Sam, blandly acted.
By the time of the third act thrills, when Kay and Sam really have to stop the evils of Edna and her house from subsuming them, this horror film has become careless with its world-building. There becomes no real rhyme or reason to the otherworld that emerges, which just about entirely alleviates the terror this film should be conveying.
Despite an earnestness in its hard hitting theme, as well as a willingness to be more atmospheric than full of jump scares, the result is still a horror film that hardly sets itself apart from its contemporaries. Relic tries to be a hard-hitting drama about three generations of family, tinged all throughout with horror aspects, but ultimately this tonal duality just splits it apart. What could’ve been a more mature and dramatic Insidious turns out to unfortunately be a let down, keeping its drama too bland and its horror too messy.