Relic (2020 — Video On Demand) is the impressive feature debut by Australian director, Natalie Erika James. Following in the footsteps of other recent, slow-burn, arthouse horror debuts (Hereditary, The Witch, and The Babadook), Relic aims to tell a story of human relationships, shrouded in the guise of horror.
Relic centers around the relationship of three generations of women in a single family. Edna (Robyn Nevin), the matriarch of the family, has gone missing from her rural home. Edna seems to be suffering from some form of dementia. Her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer), and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) travel to Edna’s house in hopes of finding out what happened. The house is littered with signs that Edna is suffering from some form of mental deterioration: post it notes to remind her to turn off the water, home-made bolts to lock out potential intruders.
Director Natalie Erika James wisely aims the focus of the first two-thirds of this film firmly on the relationship between these three women. Sure, there is an uneasy quietness, mysterious creaks and groans, shadowy hints of possible supernatural forces at-work, but primarily, we are shown characters dealing with real-life problems. How does an elderly person cope with their identity and personality slowly slipping away? How does a daughter and granddaughter cope with the fact that the person they once knew is becoming more of a stranger everyday?
Audience members who are looking for a more visceral, thrill ride sort of horror movie, will most-likely check-out well before the final act of Relic. But, for those who are drawn into the human story, the final thirty minutes of Relic contains some of the creepiest and affecting sequences they will see all year. I, for one, was fully on-board with the dark allegory Natalie Erika James presented and found the final moments to be harrowing, arresting, and ultimately, emotionally devastating.