Choosing to produce a fresh contemporary horror film is so often a bad decision, like rollerblading as an adult, or naming a newborn infant Kenneth. Thankfully, the film Relic has proven me wrong with a horror film that is lasting, patient, and chilling. Relic was officially released in July 2020 but has recently become available through both Amazon Prime and Redbox.
When an elderly mother disappears from her remote cottage in the Australian woods, her daughter and granddaughter show up to help find her. But once the elderly matriarch is found...so are past memories and a growing darkness.
I should explain Relic is not a scary film. It's not filled with jolting surprises or crescendos of music. But it still remains effective through its quietly sustained mood of dread and subtle distortions of domestic space. First-time feature film director Natalie Erika James, who also co-wrote the screenplay, has given viewers a great reminder that a horror film can be great by not trying too hard (unlike the 2018 fiasco Hereditary).
Sometimes what haunts a house is not an actual ghost but an encroaching dementia or ancestral tragedies inherited through generations. The symbolism is rich, rotting, and psychological; and Relic will hopefully be included alongside other memorable horror films of this sub-genre in the future. Relic is not flashy like Poltergeist (1982) or The Silence of the Lambs (1991). It's more inwardly focused in the vein of Repulsion (1965), The Tenant (1976), or the demented science-fiction slasher Possessor (2020).