I am a huge lover of 90s- early 2000s Creature Features. I like that instead of just being traditional horror they are almost action/adventure movies with some spice thrown in. One of my favorites is the 1997 film The Relic. I recently rewatched it (for about the millionth time), and thought I would finally do an Impressions piece on it.
The Relic starts off with anthropologist John Whitney watching a ceremony done by a tribe in South America, he drinks something that causes him to completely freak out and then panicking about some crates of his being sent to America. Flash forward, and everyone on the ship with his crates is dead. We pick up from there with evolutionary biologist Margo Green and homicide detective Lieutenant D’Agosta. D’Agosta is trying to figure out what happened on the ship and its connection to the museum that Green works for. Green gets roped into the case when she discovers a living bacteria on the plants with Whitney’s crates.
All of this is build up for a creature to begin killing in the museum.
It is not a perfect movie, it suffers mostly in the area of CGI, but that is to be expected with its age. A few of the characters are also rather annoying and frankly stupid. The story also has a few missteps in development. It takes Green far too long to figure out what is happening which makes reveals that the movie wants you to be impressed by fall a little flat.
Even with these few hiccups, it’s a movie that I love. The pacing is solid with a good build up to an extended climax with the creature in the museum with several people locked in with it. The nature of the people being unable to escape makes for some tense moments and solid suspense. The movie is, as I said, more of an action/adventure movie with a few of the spices that push it to horror, including some gory but impressive deaths.
The story itself is good overall. It is of course pretty unbelievable, but that’s not the worst thing in the world. It loses itself in the fantasy a few times but is never so off base that you find yourself caught up more in “this is not possible” than enjoying the movie itself. It develops well, and while it does seem the monster goes a bit 0 to 60, it works in the time frame that the movie has. Any longer to get to the “good stuff” and the movie would have started to lose people.
Other than the above mentioned annoying characters there are also a lot of characters to like. D’Agosta and Green have good chemistry, and it’s not drowning in unneeded sexual tension. There are a few hints at it, but the movie is not trying to sell you a romance in the middle of people being hunted. Dr. Frock and Dr. Cuthbert are also likable characters, which ups the tension when they are in trouble. Having good characters in horror movies is helpful so that you are rooting for them, and not just waiting for the next death.
Dr. Green is probably the character I get the most confused about. I like her overall, but she has a few quirks that don’t work for me. She is rather snobbish about different areas of science which is rather annoying and starts to irk me. However, she is strong when the movie calls for it, smart, and doesn’t play second fiddle to D’Agosta. I have discovered this is a theme for this type of Creature Feature, women that stand out from the final girls and cannon fodder of Slasher Trash, and I find it refreshing to watch.
The movie also balances character development, humor, and what you are there for horror. It’s not the scariest movie you will ever see, but it is an entertaining one. And that is ultimately what gets me about it. If I want to be completely freaked out, I am not going to this movie. It has its intense moments, but it won’t make me scream or give me nightmares. It does entertain me every time I watch it no matter how many times, however. I like that. I am not always in the mood for silly and gory slashers, or over the top intense experiences, The Relic is a popcorn movie in the horror genre, and that is just fine. When I am in the mood for it, it’s a perfect go to.
So bottom line? It’s not going to be my top recommended movie for genre fans. It really depends on what type of movie you like and whether or not you even completely consider this horror. However, for people that like Creature Features and a bit more of an entertaining, if not scary, experience then I would certainly say give this one a go. For me, it’s actually one of my favorite movies in the genre. I simply enjoy it, no more, no less.