REVIEW: While there’s room for improvement, ‘Relic’ stands as a solid thriller

In most cases it’s good to hold on to items important to one’s family… except when they happen to be haunted or produce evil.

Unfortunately, that’s basically what we have in this picture.

Set in rural Australia, “Relic” tells the story of three women, the eldest Edna (Robyn Nevin), her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and her granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote). Edna, now a widow, lives alone in an old house and is getting to the age where it may be appropriate to have her stay at an assisted living facility. This is made apparent when she goes missing and comes back acting strangely.

At first, both Kay and Sam suspect the issue may be dementia, or general cognitive decline. However, as the movie goes on, Edna’s actions, and the house itself, become more sinister.

“Relic” has a good set up, and the metaphorical subtext is built up quite nicely from start to finish. The problem is there isn’t enough of it. The movie comes in at just under 90 minutes and there’s a feeling that more time would have been welcome to flesh out the picture.

The third act feels rather rushed and the movie as a whole seems like it’s just scratching the surface of what’s really going on. More lore and details would have definitely been a nice touch with “Relic.

Couresy Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Nine Stories Productions, AGBO Co., IFC Films and Stan Co.

Despite the movie not being as rich in substance, though, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still work at a basic level. For an hour and a half dramatic horror flick, it works well enough. It especially helps when it has well made creepy sequences, freaky moments and a few nicely placed moments of claustrophobia.

These elements, and the movie as a whole, are brought together nicely by director Natalie Erika James and the crew. It’s a well crafted, finely detailed.

Credit certainly has to go to the lead trio of actresses, too.

Nevin’s performance is notable for going in so many different directions, from an independent woman still wanting to live on her own to a person seemingly possessed. Mortimer, meanwhile, convincingly portrays a person who’s clearly stressed and unsure of what to do with her mother. Heathcote brings it together by portraying a character who’s trying to manage both sides.

As previously stated, there are clear themes here about aging and relationships between parents and their adult children. The idea of independence and staying with one’s family are very much in play here and the performers capture this well.

“Relic” certainly would have benefited from digging deeper and having a third act that played out a bit slower. With that said, the acting is on point and its messaging elevates it above an average haunted house horror. 3.75 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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