Having a horror movie set up in the middle of a broken family is such a classic setup. The key has always been to emphasize family dysfunctionalities and use horror to amplify it. Relic (2020) does that to a fair extent. The underlying theme is how kids get distant from their parents over time and how the parent is the one in need of care after a certain age.
The movie tries to stay grounded throughout the first half with minimal supernatural elements, almost making it a psychological thriller. It doesn’t rely too heavily on moving furniture, lights going off, voices out of the ordinary, etc. That feels fresh. It was a direction I was very glad the movie was taking. Yes, there are some strange occurrences but it’s nothing you won’t expect to hear in a strange old house. Things gradually get more paranormal, but it never gets too big in scale until the final act.
The final act is where things start to fall apart and get too supernatural too quickly. Something very supernatural that certainly wasn’t a dream sequence starts to ensue and it left a terrible aftertaste. There is no explanation for any of it and is such a drastic tonal shift that it left me disappointed. The final scene does try to go back to the underlying theme of family. But it feels too late by then. I felt like I was not watching the same movie I started 90 minutes ago. The title of the movie doesn’t make sense either, which was a shame. By the end, the whole experience seems confusing from a writing standpoint. You’re left wondering whether the writers had completely different ideas for the movie.
The performances by all three actresses are great and feel consistent throughout the runtime. Even in moments of panic, their expressions feel appropriate within their emotional range. All three actresses have great chemistry and they depict their relationships with each other perfectly. The dialogue feels natural and there was never any moment that felt expository. The sound design is both creepy and roaring creating amazing moments of tension. This is indeed a very well-made film in terms of its technical aspects and that makes it an entertaining watch.
Relic (2020) is a satisfying horror flick with a family drama in its core along with great performances and chemistry on screen. Despite a potentially polarizing ending, it is a well-executed directorial debut if not a very well written one.
Watch the cast talk about the movie, here.