Relic – The destructive and irreversible terror of dementia


Relic is available to rent or buy now.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The most potent horror often comes from reflecting on our shared human experiences and fears, whether through discussions on racism in Get Out or parenthood in The Babadook. However, up until now, the horror of dementia has largely remained untapped. But, with her bold debut feature Relic, Natalie Erika James dives into the psychological fear of the illness through a lens of supernatural horror. As Relic opens, water pours from an overflowing bath as an elderly woman (Robyn Nevin) stares at the twinkling lights of her Christmas tree. Something is wrong, and when we cut to the woman’s daughter weeks later, it’s clear what that is. Kay (Emily Mortimer) lives in Melbourne, miles from her ageing mother. But that distance feels even more significant as she receives a phone call informing her that her elderly mother, Edna, is missing following ongoing memory problems.

The mystery of Edna’s disappearance takes Kay and her young daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) to her mum’s rural home in the search for answers. But, when Edna suddenly reappears, the initial joy quickly turns to concern and fear as a veil of darkness descends over the house and its inhabitants. Relic cleverly plays with our sense of time throughout the unfolding mystery as days turn to weeks and possibly months in the blink of an eye – the house and its memories creaking as a deadly force enters and refuses to leave. Here Natalie Erika James draws upon the style of Polanski, Cronenberg and Aster as she plays with our very sense of reality, mirroring the horror of dementia in celluloid. The result is a heartbreaking exploration of terminal illness that is petrifying, harrowing, bold and emotional. James understands that the best horror holds a mirror to our deepest and darkest fears, announcing her arrival with one of the most creative and bold horrors of the year.


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