Dark Water meets The Shining in Natalie Erika James’ Australian chiller about three women (Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin and Bella Heathcote) going mad in a house. It was 2020, what else were they going to do?
Based on the director’s experiences with her grandmother, Relic is fortified by the focus and clarity of its Alzheimer’s allegory. This is no glib monster movie but a grounded meditation on illness that confronts realistic fears and is frightening as a result. Singular almost to the point of tunnel vision, that metaphor runs through every aspect of the film like the bruise spreading across its matriarch’s chest.
James establishes a creeping sense of dread that grows with the mould expanding through the house, its walls closing in as the mind recedes. As the home becomes unfamiliar, James peels back layers of decay to reveal the humanity tying these women together. She never falls back on jump scares, exorcisms or Hereditary-style satanic rituals, keeping the horror fixated on losing one’s family and memory.
A sad, disquieting and brutal three-hander, Relic is a bold debut feature that deals with the times when people aren’t themselves.