Grandma got run over by a demon!
“Relic” is an Australian horror movie from IFC Midnight, and probably the first I’ve seen since “The Babadook.” It’s hard to keep count on the artisan horror flicks I’ve enjoyed within the past five years. And I keep saying they take more risks than your average mass market horror flick, resonating with the very best and scariest in the past.
Why is it that the old folks are among the scariest things in horror movies, like “The Shining,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” or “The Visit?” Maybe because of how the filmmakers chose to lead them or maybe because they can be looney at times, with all respect. In “Relic,” the movie takes slow steps in transcending the elderly woman Edna (Robyn Nevin from “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions”) from strange to crazy to satanic, and never jumps to conclusions. You’re pondering on what’s going through her mind, and the results are chilling.
The movie begins with Edna gone missing, and her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) spending time at her place until she turns up. When she does return, she seems okay. Probably a medial issue, they think. But we, the audience, know something freaky is going on, since the house makes creaky nosies, mold emerges, blood is on Edna’s night gown, post-it notes are all over the house, and Kay has a dream sequence about a rotting corpse waking up.
Since Kay can’t have Edna living with her because of work, Sam must move in with her. She reveals to the young lass about how this house is all they have left, because of all the memories it holds. This could have something to do with the supernatural activity going on. You think?!
Other examples of her insanity feature Edna nearly breaking Sam’s hand after accusing her of stealing her ring, which she gave to her. Another scene features the old woman getting up from the dinner table, and urinating on the floor. And when she cuts her hand or stabs herself. There’s obviously something evil possessing her. Or is it really her?
Director Natalie Erika James (in her first feature) and producer Jake Gyllenhaal and the Russo Brothers have crafted “Relic” as a horror film with a deep sense of purpose. It’s not jumpscare with those obligatory screams and stupid behaviors. It’s a chiller that wants to frighten you with its grandma turning evil, and her daughter and granddaughter both struggling to make sense out of her behavior.
The performances from Mortimer, Heathcote, and Nevin are all electrifying in their own ways of easing into their characters and adapting from one emotion to the next. The sets and locations exemplify the eery tone of the movie, and the score composed by Brian Reitzell matches the scenes very well. Some parts tend to lag on a bit, but “Relic” still keeps you going with its acting and Hellish attitude. And its final 10 minutes will leave you in question.
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