Natalie Erika James brings us her feature length debut, Relic, co-written with Christian White and produced by the Russo brothers and Jake Gyllenhaal, it’s a quasi-drama / horror starring Emily Mortimer (“The Party”, “Spectral”), Robyn Nevin (“Upper Middle Bogan (TV)”, “Top Of The Lake (TV)”) and Bella Heathcote (“The Man In The High Castle (TV)”, “Pride And Prejudice And Zombies”).
Relic is a slow-burn movie, designed to make you jump, designed to put you on edge. We learn about the creepiness at the same time as mother and daughter (Mortimer and Heathcote) do with only Nevin seemingly having any idea as to what is actually going on.
Nevin is Edna, a grandmother living in a massive house on a large plot who, one day, goes missing. Her daughter Kay (Mortimer) receives a phone call and heads out to the house with daughter Sam (Heathcote).
It’s a big, old, creepy house and Edna is nowhere to be seen. That is until one day, out of the blue, she turns up back in the house making a cup of tea, in her nightgown, covered in mud, with seemingly no idea where she has been and with a single, dark bruise on her chest.
At doctor’s orders Kay and Sam hang around, to ensure Edna is ok. It’s clear Edna is forgetting things, but she is also muttering to herself, or someone, or something, as well as talking about someone entering the house.
Edna has episodes of anger and range, usually with Sam, meanwhile strange things are happening at the house; shadows, creepy noises, appliances switching themselves on and off, obviously usually at night.
As time goes on it becomes clear that Edna is definitely not well, moments of lucidity are less frequent as more and more of Edna is taken over by this, blackness.
I don’t mind telling you that the thought of dementia scares the living bejesus out of me, so the last thing I really needed to see was a visual manifestation of that on the big screen.
Still, we don’t always get what we want and so here it is, in all its creepiness, dementia, coming at you in high-definition and surround sound.
Relic is creepy, Nevin sees to that, switching effortlessly between a grandmother, full of warmth and love, to this shell of a woman with a very sinister look in her eyes.
Mortimer and Heathcote do well around her, Heathcote in particular brings a young persons take on things when everything begins to get a bit ‘Stranger Things’ and we enter an Upside Down looking other world within Edna’s house, again a visual representation of the darkness consuming the mind, she exclaims ‘what the f*ck’ quite a lot, which you would do.
Relic isn’t a gore-fest, mile-a-minute, non-stop horror movie or thriller. James takes a drama and dresses it in horror clothing which means it is slow, painfully at times, but it works, and the slowness only adds to the chill in the air.
Oh and that final scene, on the bed, seriously, let’s stop with the visual representations, I think I need a lie down.
30th October 2020
Natalie Erika James
THE QUICK SELL
A daughter, mother and grandmother are haunted by a manifestation of dementia that consumes their family's home.