I’ve been itching to revisit this film for a while, having not seen it before the turn of the new millennium. What I remember and what happens weren’t that close, so the watch was well worth it. As it felt like watching it again for the first time. But how well does a creature feature from nearly two decades ago hold up? Really well in The Relic’s case. Something that was honestly a bit surprising, as not many horror films from this era hold up that well. As this is when CGI was taking over and it’s not for the best when it came to these kinds of films.
The Relic opens with Anthropologist John Whitney (Lewis Van Bergen), studying a tribe in South America. After consuming a liquid concoction as part of a ceremony, he hurries to the docks. Where he tries to get the ship’s captain to unload some crates he’s shipping back to the museum where he works. After being unable to talk the captain into unloading them, he sneaks on only to discover they were never loaded to begin with. Next time we see the ship its washing up in Chicago, via the Illinois river with all the crew murdered. The murder investigation is headed up by Lt. Vincent D’Agosta (Tom Sizemore). Meanwhile the crates left is South America have found their way to their intended destination, The Natural History Museum in Chicago. We also get introduced to Dr. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller), the Museums Evolutionary Biologist as well as Dr. Ann Cuthbert (Linda Hunt) and Dr. Albert Frock (James Whitemore), who both run the museum. After they open the crates the find a single broken statue and the other containing nothing but leaves with a strange fungus. Dr. Green is ordered to destroy the leaves and the crate, which she does though she save a few to study. That night one of the buildings night guards is attacked and killed. The only witnesses being a pair of young boys who hid inside the museum until after closing. D’Agosta leads this investigation as well, and quickly resizes that the murder of the security guard and the murdered crew of the ship are related. This is through the realization that who or whatever is doing the killing is also taking the victims Hypothalamus, which is full of hormones. The same hormones the Dr. Green realizes are in the fungus. Things get worse when the Museum opens for its annual gala…
What I like most about this film is that the monster is only teased for the first two-thirds of the film. Which is due to budget more than with art. But it really does work for films betterment. The teasing of the monster builds anticipation which makes the final reveal all the more work it.
Which brings us to the creature. Which does seem to be primarily a CGI creation. But one that holds up mostly. The Kothoga is interesting and works well for the story. Though it doesn’t hold up as well when it comes the flashier scenes, like when it’s on fire.
The acting is pretty good, mostly from the smaller characters and supporting cast. As they outshine the major players in this film. Though Tom Sizemore and Penelope Ann Miller do good jobs it’s Audra Lindley who steals the show. Only appearing in one scene as Dr. Zwiezic the Corner. It’s easily the funniest witting in the film and Audra Lindley nailed it.
Final thoughts, The Relic holds up really well. Enough that I can feel safe saying it’s one of the best creature features to come out of the late nineties. The humor is dark, witty and well paced. My only real complaint is how dark the movie is. Everything feels cast in shadow. Which is great for atmosphere, but at times it gets hard to see what’s going on. 8/10