Relic is 2020's most terrifying horror – and one of the year's best movies

Ian Sandwell
Photo credit: IFC Midnight/Jackson Finter

From Digital Spy

A haunted house movie might not be high on your watchlist after months spent mostly spent indoors, but you absolutely should make an exception for Relic.

The horror movie – executive produced by Avengers: Endgame's Anthony and Joe Russo through AGBO Films – floored audiences when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year and was set to play SXSW until the festival was cancelled.

Writer/director Natalie Erika James's feature debut is set to be one of the most-talked about horror movies of the year and for good reason. Relic is not just one of the most terrifying horrors of the year, it's also one of 2020's best movies.

Photo credit: IFC Midnight/Jackson Finter

Relic kicks off with Kay (Emily Mortimer) and Sam (Bella Heathcote) going back to their decaying family home following the mysterious disappearance of the family matriarch Edna (Robyn Nevin).

There's no clues as to her whereabouts in the house, although it's clear that Edna has started to suffer from dementia. Edna soon comes back to Sam's delight, but Kay has concerns that Edna refuses to say where she's been.

Edna no longer seems like the mother and grandmother Kay and Sam used to know, and they begin to suspect that there could also be something else in the house that is in control of her.

But can the family pull together to face the ultimate fear together?

Photo credit: Sundance Institute

You might think you know what Relic has to offer, yet it's absolutely a fresh take on a haunted house tale.

It's not interested in things that go bump in the night or cheap jump scares, but more in crafting a palpable atmosphere of creeping dread.

Sure, things do bump in the night here – it's just that you might not spot them or trust it wasn't just your imagination.

Relic is a perfectly paced slow-burn horror that will appeal to even those who aren't a fan of slow-burn movies.

The first half might not always deliver a scare when you expect one, but the time spent forming the connection to the characters mean you'll feel their terror when the movie lets loose.

When you have such a limited cast of characters, you need everyone on their game and Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote and Robyn Nevin are all outstanding. You'll be hard pushed to find three more lived-in performances this year.

Photo credit: Sundance Institute

And once Relic has drawn you into its world, director Natalie Erika James – who also co-wrote the movie with Christian White – goes all-out in an intense and terrifying final third as the house becomes a main character.

It's a breathless culmination, but what really makes Relic hit home is that James hits you with an emotional sucker punch you won't expect. The movie is less interested in solving all the mysteries than leaving you with a haunting and touching final sequence.

James was inspired by her grandmother's battle with Alzheimer's, calling the writing process "cathartic".

That personal experience elevates Relic above your standard horror fare. Anyone who has had a family member go through something similar will find Relic a very personal, and likely heartbreaking, experience.

Relic is released in US cinemas and VOD on July 10. A UK release date has yet to be confirmed.

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