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Film Data
Relic  2020
Director:  Natalie Erika James
Producer:
  Anna McLeish, Sarah Shaw, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker
Art Director:
  Loretta Cosgrove and Marianne Evans
Editor:
  Denise Haratzis and Sean Lahiff
Music:
  Brian Reitzell
Screenplay:
  Natalie Erika James and Christian White, based on the 2017 short film Creswick, written by Natalie Erika James and Christian White and directed by Natalie Erika James
Director of Photography:
  Charlie Sarroff
slideshow
Cast:
spacer1 Emily Mortimer
spacer1 Robyn Nevin
spacer1 Bella Heathcote
spacer1 Chris Bunton
spacer1 Jeremy Stanford
spacer1 Steve Rodgers
spacer1 Catherine Glavicic
spacer1 Robin Northover
spacer1 Christina O’Neill
spacer1 John Browning
spacer1
spacer1
spacer1 Emily Mortimer spacer1 Robyn Nevin spacer1 Bella Heathcote
spacer1 Chris Bunton spacer1 Jeremy Stanford spacer1 Steve Rodgers
spacer1 Catherine Glavicic spacer1 Robin Northover spacer1 Christina O’Neill
spacer1 John Browning spacer1 spacer1
spacer1 Emily Mortimer spacer1 Robyn Nevin
spacer1 Bella Heathcote spacer1 Chris Bunton
spacer1 Jeremy Stanford spacer1 Steve Rodgers
spacer1 Catherine Glavicic spacer1 Robin Northover
spacer1 Christina O’Neill spacer1 John Browning

Synopsis:

Based on the 2017 short film Creswick, directed by Natalie Erika James and co-written with Christian White, Relic boasts three superb central performances from three different generations of actresses, in a script which, if one wanted to be flippant, almost goes through the checklist of haunted / spooky house movie tropes, ranging through strange sounds in the walls, an old book of sketches giving a vital clue, and seemingly secret rooms and hallways, but at the heart of this intensely atmospheric and effective horror pic is a very poignant humanity regarding the tragedy of ageing and human mortality, made all the more effective by the three leads.

Hearing her mother has gone missing from her house in the country, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer - Shutter Island / Mary Poppins Returns) and her own student daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote - The Neon Demon / TV’s The Man In The High Castle) go to help in the Police search, finding along the way that the elderly widow has been leaving some alarming notes taped to the walls and has seemingly been unable to throw anything away in years, hoarding apparently being a not-uncommon consequence of widowhood when there are no other family members in regular physical contact.

When Edna (Australian stage veteran Robyn Nevin - Careful, He Might Hear You / The Matrix sequels) is found, she is relatively unharmed, but will not say what has happened, the doctor advising Kay and Sam that she should not be left alone for a few days, the pair staying on to take care of the frail old lady, but as they do the more they find out about her, the house and it’s history, and it can be said it doesn’t end well.

Many people who have had to deal with an elderly parent or relative will painfully acknowledge the accuracy of some of James and White’s script, such as the suspicion of any change to their routines, the sudden and frightening mood changes, and most tragically the inability to recognise former loved ones, even their own children, but the writers use these as emotional plot points, the secrecy Edna still possesses becoming something worrying, and the cruel loss of self caused by the true horror of dementia suggesting that something else, some other presence is causing the outbursts and extreme behaviour, as the recipients try to struggle with coping with what is actually happening, and the fact that the story is inspired by James’ experience with a grandmother suffering with Alzheimer’s, makes it all the more acute.

The teaming of Nevin, Mortimer and Heathcote is terrific casting, even if the latter, in her mid-thirties, is a little old to be playing a student, is totally convincing in that grandparent / grandchild relationship in which the daughter in the middle can somehow feel excluded, Nevin’s Edna still having the remnants of her pride and independence, and hating the fact that she knows she is reduced to a failing body and mind, although occasionally letting some genuine flashes of fear, about her own state and whatever she feels in is in the house, emerge. Mortimer’s Kay is burdened with the guilt of living eighty miles away and seemingly only being in sporadic contact with her mother, and her visit to a Melbourne nursing home, seeing if it would be suitable, has Mortimer’s Kay show a painful blend of guilt and resignation, knowing it would be betraying her mother entirely.

But James, who has Japanese-Australian ancestry, also knows she is making a horror pic, and doesn’t skimp on the scares. The house is one of the most unsettling to be seen on screen since Lucio Fulci found one by a cemetery, slowly becoming more labyrinthine, and there is a distinct J-Horror influence in scenes of staining mould and fungus creeping along walls and out of cracks in ceilings, a visual device which will take far more prominence in the later stages, and nightmarish dreams / flashbacks to an event decades earlier, the family’s apparently demented great-grandfather living in a dark and dank cottage on the estate’s ground, the viewer being unsure whether this is by choice, neglect or even perhaps as a prisoner, are deeply uncomfortable, seeming to be where the rot literally sets in.

Although this as very character-led piece it still delivers some strong jumps and scares, while a couple of brief but very unexpected scenes of self-mutilation may be quite upsetting to some. More contentious may be the ending which initially seems to be aimed at satisfying the hardcore horror crowd before becoming something rather more compassionate but still distinctly disturbing.

With actor Jake Gyllenhaal among the producers, and the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, responsible for some of Marvel’s box-office champions, on the list of executive producers, one can see that James and White’s project obviously had traction in Hollywood, which makes the decision to still set and shoot the the film in Australia, made in and around Melbourne, all the more admirable, rather than turn it into a studio-backed bland PG-13 programmer.

All the more remarkable for being the director’s first feature, Relic is a truly effective horror movie grounded in an all too common reality in an ageing population, and while very skilfully delivering the requisite shivers and shocks, and three terrific leads, it also packs a considerable emotional impact.

Review:

Based on the 2017 short film Creswick, directed by Natalie Erika James and co-written with Christian White, Relic boasts three superb central performances from three different generations of actresses, in a script which, if one wanted to be flippant, almost goes through the checklist of haunted / spooky house movie tropes, ranging through strange sounds in the walls, an old book of sketches giving a vital clue, and seemingly secret rooms and hallways, but at the heart of this intensely atmospheric and effective horror pic is a very poignant humanity regarding the tragedy of ageing and human mortality, made all the more effective by the three leads.

Hearing her mother has gone missing from her house in the country, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer - Shutter Island / Mary Poppins Returns) and her own student daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote - The Neon Demon / TV’s The Man In The High Castle) go to help in the Police search, finding along the way that the elderly widow has been leaving some alarming notes taped to the walls and has seemingly been unable to throw anything away in years, hoarding apparently being a not-uncommon consequence of widowhood when there are no other family members in regular physical contact.

When Edna (Australian stage veteran Robyn Nevin - Careful, He Might Hear You / The Matrix sequels) is found, she is relatively unharmed, but will not say what has happened, the doctor advising Kay and Sam that she should not be left alone for a few days, the pair staying on to take care of the frail old lady, but as they do the more they find out about her, the house and it’s history, and it can be said it doesn’t end well.

Many people who have had to deal with an elderly parent or relative will painfully acknowledge the accuracy of some of James and White’s script, such as the suspicion of any change to their routines, the sudden and frightening mood changes, and most tragically the inability to recognise former loved ones, even their own children, but the writers use these as emotional plot points, the secrecy Edna still possesses becoming something worrying, and the cruel loss of self caused by the true horror of dementia suggesting that something else, some other presence is causing the outbursts and extreme behaviour, as the recipients try to struggle with coping with what is actually happening, and the fact that the story is inspired by James’ experience with a grandmother suffering with Alzheimer’s, makes it all the more acute.

The teaming of Nevin, Mortimer and Heathcote is terrific casting, even if the latter, in her mid-thirties, is a little old to be playing a student, is totally convincing in that grandparent / grandchild relationship in which the daughter in the middle can somehow feel excluded, Nevin’s Edna still having the remnants of her pride and independence, and hating the fact that she knows she is reduced to a failing body and mind, although occasionally letting some genuine flashes of fear, about her own state and whatever she feels in is in the house, emerge. Mortimer’s Kay is burdened with the guilt of living eighty miles away and seemingly only being in sporadic contact with her mother, and her visit to a Melbourne nursing home, seeing if it would be suitable, has Mortimer’s Kay show a painful blend of guilt and resignation, knowing it would be betraying her mother entirely.

But James, who has Japanese-Australian ancestry, also knows she is making a horror pic, and doesn’t skimp on the scares. The house is one of the most unsettling to be seen on screen since Lucio Fulci found one by a cemetery, slowly becoming more labyrinthine, and there is a distinct J-Horror influence in scenes of staining mould and fungus creeping along walls and out of cracks in ceilings, a visual device which will take far more prominence in the later stages, and nightmarish dreams / flashbacks to an event decades earlier, the family’s apparently demented great-grandfather living in a dark and dank cottage on the estate’s ground, the viewer being unsure whether this is by choice, neglect or even perhaps as a prisoner, are deeply uncomfortable, seeming to be where the rot literally sets in.

Although this as very character-led piece it still delivers some strong jumps and scares, while a couple of brief but very unexpected scenes of self-mutilation may be quite upsetting to some. More contentious may be the ending which initially seems to be aimed at satisfying the hardcore horror crowd before becoming something rather more compassionate but still distinctly disturbing.

With actor Jake Gyllenhaal among the producers, and the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, responsible for some of Marvel’s box-office champions, on the list of executive producers, one can see that James and White’s project obviously had traction in Hollywood, which makes the decision to still set and shoot the the film in Australia, made in and around Melbourne, all the more admirable, rather than turn it into a studio-backed bland PG-13 programmer.

All the more remarkable for being the director’s first feature, Relic is a truly effective horror movie grounded in an all too common reality in an ageing population, and while very skilfully delivering the requisite shivers and shocks, and three terrific leads, it also packs a considerable emotional impact.

disc test

DVD
DVD retail information
sleeve DVD
BBFC: 15
Studio: Signature Entertainment
Audio:
Aspect ratio:
Barcode: 5060262858585
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Available: 18 Jan 2021
disc price calulation Price: £10.99
Blu-ray
Blu-ray retail information
sleeve DVD 
BBFC: 15
Studio: Signature Entertainment
Audio:
Aspect ratio:
Barcode: 5060262858714
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Available: 18 Jan 2021
disc price calulation Price: £12.99