Relic is a haunted house movie about the human spirit

Image of the article titled Relic is a Haunted House movie about the inside of the human mind

Photo: IFC Films

Someday everyone you know and love will die. Much of human effort is built around trying to ignore or challenge this unchanging truth, but we all carry it with us anyway, sitting heavily on our chests like the upturned-nosed incubus in painting. by John Henry Fuseli The nightmare. If we are fortunate enough to have parents who live to old age, the inevitability of decay becomes a little harder to avoid year after year: first you notice they get stiff, then Gray. Then, suddenly, they are old. And their bodies and minds are starting to fall apart, which means yours will soon be too.

Mortality and the fear of the unknown that comes with it is the foundation of all horror, but the nature of death is rarely explored in such terrifying ways. and tend a fashion like in Natalie Erika James’ Relic. James is originally from Australia, and like his compatriot Jennifer Kent did with The Babadook, James approaches domestic horror from the perspective of an overworked and exasperated babysitter – in this case, Kay (Emily Mortimer), who is called back to her childhood home when her elderly mother Edna (Robyn Nevin) goes missing. Accompanied by her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote), Kay searches for clues that might help them locate Edna in her crumbling and cluttered house. But when Edna reappears as inexplicably as she is gone, showing startling symptoms of dementia and offering no explanation for where she went, the real horror of the situation begins to unfold.

Relic opens under the warm glow of Christmas lights, a cozy painting that becomes immediately eerie when Nevin steps into the frame, a towel draped haphazardly over his naked body and wild, unkempt hair. It is emblematic of Relicapproaching horror, which, as The Babadook and Ari Aster Hereditary, bases its supernatural terror in the violation of the sacred bonds of the family. Watching a loved one die is always horrifying, but dementia makes it especially true, as the patient not only mentally slips away, but lashes out in an angry and hurtful way at the same time. Relic offers more thrills in a haunted house than these movies, however, especially in its final third, when the house itself seems to come to life, trapping Kay and Sam in a metaphorical manifestation of locked doors and labyrinthine passageways in the mind. of Edna.

Image of the article titled Relic is a Haunted House movie about the inside of the human mind

Photo: IFC Films

James accompanies these images with a visual pattern of mold and rot, starting with a water stain on Edna’s fireplace mantel and culminating in an emotionally devastating punch from a finale. She and cinematographer Charlie Sarroff wrap the entire film in a musty gray that mimics the growing rot on Edna’s chest, a hue that becomes darker and more impenetrable as the horror deepens. Accompanied by sound effects that resemble a parched throat struggling to stifle breath, the effect is like being inside a haunted catacomb.

Combined with realistic, messy family dynamics and expert tricks from the cast, especially Nevin, whose performance boldly weaves its way through difficult territory, the result is powerful, if a style of horror audiences are fond of. ‘is used to a post-A24 world. To reject the film on these grounds would, however, be unfair, not only because of its funhouse heyday and the creature effects that come with it, but because of the clarity, artistry, and emotional weight of James’ vision and co -author Christian White.

The monster in Relic is difficult to classify in a conventional category. It’s pervasive, but also inherent; metaphorical, but also a physical entity; sinister, but also poignant. It is not a ghost, not a curse, and not a mummy, although it does contain aspects of all of these things. Her most defined (and scariest) aspect is that by the time you see her real face, it’s too late. It will come for your parents first, then it will come for you, and then it will come for your children, just like the ultimate horror, death itself.


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