A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Relic is a horror movie about three generations of women (Bella Heathcote, Emily Mortimer, and Robyn Nevin) who end up under the same roof when the grandmother starts mysteriously disappearing and exhibiting unusual behavior. It's essentially a movie about dementia, with scary stuff. It's a slow burn, but it does get quite terrifying in the final stretch. Expect lots of scary images and sounds, nightmares about shriveled bodies and decay, a character stabbing her own face, a protruding broken bone, some blood, urination, shouting, grabbing, etc. A woman's naked bottom is briefly shown. Language includes uses of "s--t," "retard," and "Jesus" and "Jesus Christ." A teen and another character smoke cigarettes in one scene.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In RELIC, Kay (Emily Mortimer) learns that her aged mother, Edna, hasn't been seen in some time. So Kay and her teen daughter, Sam (Bella Heathcote), drive from Melbourne to Edna's woodsy country home. Inside they find many odd clues, from Post-it notes left everywhere to food left out for a nonexistent pet. Kay and Sam decide to stay there and wait; unexpectedly, Edna (Robyn Nevin) suddenly turns up in the kitchen one day, making tea. She has no memory of what happened but sports an unusual black bruise on her chest. A doctor recommends that someone look after her, so Kay and Sam stay on a bit longer. But creepy things increasingly pop up, including noises, nightmares, and a secret room with horrifying properties.
Is it any good?
This horror movie has a pretty slow build, but when it kicks in, it does so with head-spinning impact, cleverly and dynamically achieving a visual, physical manifestation of its themes and emotions. Directed and co-written by Natalie Erika James in her feature debut, Relic focuses on the three women above any other spectacle. They represent three generations, each attempting to understand and communicate with the others, with the younger members of the trio secretly fearing that they, too, will face the horrors of aging and decay. This emotional center drives the rest of the story. Better still, Relic manages to talk about dementia without seeming like an issue-driven movie.
With its vivid lighting, sound design, and set design, the movie has a strong, creepy haunted-house vibe. As Kay and Sam poke around the house, many seemingly innocuous objects start to take on darker vibes: a chair, a stained-glass window, a ring, candles, etc. But when things really get going in the final section, Relic builds some deeply terrifying moments, recalling Mark Z. Danielewski's great novel House of Leaves and pulling off images of the imagination that might have seemed unfilmable. Of course, nothing would have worked without the three nuanced lead performances, especially Nevin in the most difficult role; her radical switchbacks in mood are scary but human.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Relic's scary stuff. What's the appeal of scary movies?
What does the movie have to say about dementia? How does it equate horror elements with this real-life condition?
Is the movie violent? How much is shown, and how much is suggested? How does sound work to make unseen violence seem more threatening?
What are the family relationships in the story like? How are they similar or different from your own family relationships?
- In theaters: July 3, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: November 17, 2020
- Cast: Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote, Robyn Nevin
- Director: Natalie Erika James
- Studio: IFC Midnight
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some horror violence/disturbing images, and language
- Last updated: November 16, 2020
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