With England still working its way through lockdown 2.0 and cinemas across the UK either closed or offering a limited selection of movies, many are once again asking the question: What do I watch this weekend? It’s a fine, if not rather familiar question for 2020, with the default answer (now that we’re in November) being ‘erm… watch something Christmassy?’
Well, if you’re not ready to jump into the festive season just yet, and you’re still on a comedown from Halloween, how about some more horror? And what’s better than some more horror? Some new horror of course!
Recently released in the UK is Relic – an Australian psychological horror movie which is available to rent from multiple streaming platforms including Amazon and Curzon Home Cinema. The movie – directed by Natalie Erika James – stars Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, and Bella Heathcote, and is a dark, unnerving tale about three woman and a seemingly haunted house.
In the movie, Kay and her daughter Sam are called to the home of Edna – Kay’s mother. Edna is a forgetful, elderly woman who appears to have gone missing.
But Edna’s absence is short-lived, and she soon returns home – her feet caked in dirt and her chest bruised. Edna offers no explanation as to where she has been, and has no desire to talk about her disappearance.
As the story unfolds, and much to the concern of her daughter and granddaughter, Edna continues to act out of character. She whispers to the shadows, claims someone is under her bed, and displays behaviour which is somewhat erratic.
Is Edna being haunted by a malevolent spirit or is something else taking place which is far more sinister? To answer that question would be to give away the central element of the story, but to some eagle-eyed audiences it should become apparent fairly quickly.
While I can’t provide any plot spoilers, what I can say is that Relic presents an increasingly troubling story which explores an overlooked, but relevant subject matter. It is a story which offers substance over spectacle (expect atmosphere over jump scares) and is designed to leave you with much to think about once the credits roll.
Relic offers a fresh take on the haunted house sub-genre, and a take which is delivered in a very effective way. For some it will hit a little too close to home when it comes to the nightmare that Edna experiences, but I see that as the mark of a good horror – its ability to get under the skin.
Did it get under my skin? You bet it did, and I found myself caught up in the mystery and suspense of the picture, as well as the superb performances from the cast.
But Relic isn’t perfect though, and while I liked the movie a lot, I do feel the story would have benefited from a couple of tweaks, in particular during the climax. Perhaps an additional pass over the script would have ironed out some issues which missed the mark.
I also believe that anyone looking purely for gore or loud crashes and bangs with their horror would be wise to give Relic a miss. This simply isn’t that kind of film and some may view this as a little too slow for their tastes.
Ultimately depending on how much you engage with what is being alluded to on screen will determine how much you get out of Relic. Some will watch the movie and see it is a superb modern horror, with an instantly recognisable and terrifying story thread; while others may feel disappointed and expect something more – particularly when the film reaches its conclusion.
If you’re in the mood for a psychological horror this weekend, then Relic may prove to be an engaging way to spend 90 minutes – it certainly was for me and I do recommend it. But I do expect this to be a divisive movie, similar to Saint Maud, Midsommar, and The Witch which have split audiences in recent years, and have left some feeling rather underwhelmed.