Movie review – Relic (2020)

Ah yes, more 2020 releases.

Relic is a 2020 Australian horror film and making her directorial debut is Natalie Erika James. The film stars Robyn Nevin, Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote.

Nevin plays an elderly woman who is suffering from dementia. When her daughter Kay (Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Heathcote) arrive at her house to spend time with her, they discover she is missing.

As Kay and Sam look around the house for clues to what happened to her, they discover a black-mold substance around the house and begin hearing strange noises throughout the house.

When Edna randomly arrives back at the house, the supposed “haunting” gets worse and worse and she acts stranger as the days go on. At points, she is a sound mind and interacting normally with Kay and Sam but minutes later, she’s taking a family photo album to the backyard and burying it; as well as eating some of the photos.

The later we get into the film, we realize that the house deteriorates at the same pace as Edna’s mind.

This film floored me. I was dead silent the entire time and the ending nearly brought me to tears. For many people, this is going to be familiar and they’ll understand why this film is so scary. If you were expecting your usual supernatural horror film, this film is not that. This is a metaphorical and allegorical film. We are watching a family being torn apart by this horrible disease taking over Edna and we see visual representations of how dementia can affect, not only the person suffering from it, but the family as well.

You start understanding where this film is going early on when Kay leaves the house for Melbourne in search of a nice retirement home for Edna. Now, this angered me because I don’t believe in chucking your parents and trying to rid of any responsibility for them when they can’t take care of themselves. If your parents can raise you for 18+ years before you can care and provide for yourself, you should pay it back when they reach a point where they need assistance.

Kay is trying to avoid responsibility to her mother because she’s not willing to accept her mother’s condition. She wants things to be normal but the movie tells her grief for the entire runtime. It’s not until the end, in a very powerful scene, that she finally accepts the condition of her mother and wants to take care of her and be by her side until her final breath.

From a technical standpoint, this film is stunning. There’s some really cool camera work and visual trickery where we see rooms rotate and walls enclose to bring a sense of claustrophobia. The colors also pop off incredibly well. While they don’t necessarily mean anything like in Suspiria, they are still beautiful to look at.

The horror elements aren’t as tasteful and that’s the film’s only flaw. There are these shadow figures around the house and while they can represent the disease and Kay and Sam not realizing the gravity of their matriarch’s condition, it wasn’t necessary for the tone of the film. There’s already true horror in watching a loved one suffer from dementia and that’s why this movie is going to stick with me for awhile.

Remember to always take care of your family members and pay it back when they can’t take care of themselves anymore.

Rating: 9/10

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