“Where there is no imagination there is no horror.” -Arthur Conan Doyle
Here we are again with one of those finicky horror/drama hybrids that test the patience of anyone simply looking for a run-of-the-mill scary movie. Relic is a psychological drama that explores the horrors of becoming dependent on others because your mind is beginning to deteriorate into senility. Now imagine as this takes place what replaces it is not only moments of missing time and forgotten faces but moments plagued by the darkest recesses of your own mind. I think if I were to somehow truly explore what’s rattling around my own brainspace I’d end up in a mental institution simply because what’s in my gray matter is likely inaccessible for a damn good reason.
Relic is not a horror in the traditional sense as it is equal parts familial trauma set within a situation that could be easily labeled as terrifying. It asks what a child now grown is willing to do for those that raised them when their time of independence is at an end. Your parents changed your shitty diapers, dry heaving along the way, are you prepared to do the same for them when the time comes? Easier said than done, I know all too well. Is your love for them stronger than the hate you will inevitably feel toward them in moments of weakness as you have to do things that make you feel so degraded? And yes I stress hate. You might ask what place hate has in a loving relationship between parent and child and I would say to you, trust me, it finds a home.
In the final year of my dad’s life he became completely dependent on my mother and myself for basically anything and everything you can imagine. I loved him and still do with my whole heart and soul but I tell you there were moments that he frustrated me so much, so vehemently that I contemplated several times leaving and never coming back. Of course I couldn’t do that to my mother, who was already so overwhelmed by him, and I couldn’t do it to him either, no matter how angry he could make me. Relic puts a horror spin on such a situation and does so with tension and method resulting in a slow burning story about an old woman’s descent into madness as her daughter and granddaughter helplessly watch in dismay.
Emily Mortimer plays the daughter of an elderly woman suffering from dementia which displays itself in ways that can only be described as horrifying. She watches as her mother, before her very eyes, becomes a shell of who she once was. It is tragic and maddening all at once creating unsettling visions and sounds indicating a possible presence within the walls of her dilapidating childhood home.
Much in the same way The Babadook manifested monsters to personify grief and loss, Relic uses a haunted home to showcase the tragedies of dementia both on the victim themselves and their loved ones who can help but only to a certain extent. Ultimately we are left aside watching someone we care for fall apart mentally and soon thereafter physically. It’s in these moments that in all honesty death would be a sort of relief from the agony of watching someone die without literal loss of life. In the end my own grandmother, who suffered from dementia, was no longer the grandmother of my past, recent or not, she was gone. She became a thing in the room, never talking, never engaging in anything other than breathing in and out. It was a slog of a tragedy, mercilessly mocking us as it took her away one day at a time. Are we understanding how scary this can all really be yet?
The performances are grounded, never exaggerated but never flat or boring. The role of the grandmother is brought to tragic, frightful life by Robyn Nevin who evokes feelings of empathy and absolute nightmare fuel. She is pathetic and unnerving sometimes all at once. The home these three generational women find themselves entangled within is a physical representation of what dementia looks and feels like. It’s rotting and only spreading, taking something familiar and making it wholly unrecognizable. Her family looks in her face seeing who they know only to watch her actions completely contradict everything they know her to be.
In the final moments (no spoilers) we see the fear transfer from grandmother to mother to daughter, each watching the other fearing this is what’s next for them, dementia can be hereditary afterall. It ends with a stark message of this all being a wheel, a vicious cycle inescapable and inevitable. Relic is sad, it is scary in ways unexpected making this one a memorable entry into the psychological side of the horror genre, a personal favorite subgenre of mine.
Rated R For: some horror violence/disturbing images, and language
Runtime: 89 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Horror, Drama
Starring: Emily Mortimer, Roby Nevin, Bella Heathcote
Directed By: Natalie Erika James
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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