Saturday, October 10, 2015

Film Review: The Relic (1997)

The Relic (Review)
United States/1997
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"...a very memorable and enjoyable film."

An anthropologist for the Museum of Natural History in Chicago accidentally sends a package back to Chicago with sinister content on a merchant ship...

The Relic follows Chicago homicide detective Vincent D'Agosta (Tom Sizemore) when the cargo ship arrives with a missing crew. After some investigation, D'Agosta finds the crew have been viciously slaughtered. As D'Agosta prepares to shrug it off as a drug hit, another savage murder occurs at the Museum of Natural History with similar aspects. D'Agosta comes in contact with Dr. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller) – the last museum staff member to have signed-off the night of the grizzly murder. Eventually, the museum prepares for a gala opening, unaware of the true horror lurking in the building. Meanwhile, D'Agosta, Margo, and Margo's mentor begin to piece everything together. The film leads to a good ending.

The Relic is a great creature feature. As you can see, it has a very meaty and engaging story. There are some issues with it, though. For example, the characters are mostly one-dimensional cliches. The characters have some depth, but they seem to be filling very generic roles – “the superstitious, grumpy detective,” “the factual scientist,” “the snobby, slimy weasel,” etc. The creature's origin can also be a bit convoluted, especially since it's fragmented – it gives you bits and pieces at a time. Also, the film has some of the typical problems: plot contrivances and blatant exposition. I mean, there's an entire scene where the museum shuts down and two guards blatantly explain everything.

Even with these flaws, The Relic is a great film. The plot is very engaging and interesting because it is filled to the brim – it never feels uneventful or stretched out. The story handles its buildup very well. The setting, although often limited to back offices, is also splendid. I loved when chaos erupted inside the museum – a very well executed sequence. As for the horror, the film has great suspense and plenty of gore. The film is filled with grizzly decapitations – it's actually the preferred method of murder for the creature in this film. These two elements blend to create something exciting.

The acting is more than serviceable, despite the generic characters. Penelope Ann Miller does well as the female lead and Tom Sizemore does well as the male lead. I'm not sure if the pair were supposed to have some on-screen chemistry, but that didn't really work out well. Some of the supporting cast are weak, some are great – a little hit-or-miss. The film is shot well and the music blends well with the film. There are some outdated computer effects, but the practical effects are splendid. Director Peter Hyams crafts an engaging horror film with plenty of suspense and gore. There are some issues in the story and characters, but those are more due to the writing, I suppose.

Overall, The Relic is a very good creature feature. In fact, it's one of my favorites. Perhaps it is due to the nostalgia of watching it at a young age, but it is a very memorable and enjoyable film. With that said, even I can see some of its blatant flaws and these flaws occasionally hinder the experience. I still had a wonderful time, but it really could have been better. If you love gory creature features with meaty plots and great buildup, this is for you.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

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