Director: Natalie Erika James
Starring: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin and Bella Heathcote
Natalie Erika James is keeping things in the family for her directorial debut feature, horror film Relic.
Her debut sees Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin and Bella Heathcote play three generations of women from one family.
When the eldest of the three, Edna goes missing from her remote home her daughter and granddaughter, Kay and Sam travel from afar to come and assist in the search to find her.
Due to its Australian setting, a theme of mental health and strong female performances, Relic feels very reminiscent of Jennifer Kent’s critically acclaimed horror The Babadook.
However, despite these similarities Relic doesn’t quite reach the high standards of Kent’s debut film; and unfortunately, it’s not even close.
The film will be described as a slow burn, although there’s almost no burn at all as for the first hour of the ninety-minute running time there is very little happening.
Whilst an atmosphere full of tension and dread is successfully created the film can’t ever seem to deliver anything particularly unnerving to follow this up.
Mainstream horror audiences will be very disappointed with the lack of actual scares and those looking for something “shit your pants scary” will have to look elsewhere, and this is coming from a self-confessed horror wimp.
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The final act really is the film’s saviour as it, at last, gives audiences at least some kind of thrill.
It’s this last half an hour that will prove most memorable for viewers and the anti is well and truly upped, however for many it will more than likely be a case of too little too late.
The finale itself quickly runs out of steam and the failure of the first hour of the film to engage the audience means there’s little to invest in here beyond the few instances of shock value.
So whilst the scares aren’t exactly terrifying the film does in many ways showcase the very real horrors of mental illness, both for those suffering from it and for their family.
However, the actual horror elements of the film don’t feel strong enough to convey this metaphor, failing to warrant its use within this genre.
A touching family drama may have even been more effective than attempting to frame it a horror film.
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The best thing about Relic is that it’s a film that shows the promise of Natalie Erika James as a director.
She demonstrates a strong ability to create scenes of suspense and a good creativity in bringing a screenplay to life.
However, the film itself isn’t anything particularly remarkable and won’t be an overly memorable debut.
The performances of the entire cast is good and there are some nice ideas experimented with, however, none of these really amount to anything that engaging, which is a shame as it’s clearly a well-intentioned narrative.
It’s not scary enough to satisfy hardcore horror fans and the story doesn’t have enough originality to stand out in this overcrowded genre.
Relic will quickly fade into the bargain bin of neglected horror flicks but there’s enough evidence of promise for this new director to make her worth betting on for future endeavours in this genre.
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