Relic (2020) reviews and overview


Relic is a 2020 Australian-American horror feature film about a family being haunted by a manifestation of dementia that consumes their home.

Directed by Natalie Erika James – making her feature debut – from a screenplay co-written with Christian White, the movie stars Emily Mortimer (Mary; Spectral), Bella Heathcote (The Neon Demon; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; Dark Shadows) and Robyn Nevin; it was produced by Anna McLeish, Sarah Shaw, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riva Marker.


When elderly mother Edna (Robyn Nevin) inexplicably vanishes, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) rush to their family’s decaying country home, finding clues of her increasing dementia scattered around the house in her absence.

After Edna returns just as mysteriously as she disappeared, Kay’s concern that her mother seems unwilling or unable to say where she clashes with Sam’s unabashed enthusiasm to have her grandma back.

As Edna’s behaviour turns increasingly volatile, both begin to sense that an insidious presence in the house might be taking control of her. All three generations of women are brought together through trauma and a powerful sense of strength and loyalty to face the ultimate fear together…


Relic had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020.

IFC Midnight has announced a July 10th VOD and Digital release. A theatrical release is also planned for July 10th.

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Horror used as an exploration for illness, loss, and what we inherit from our family isn’t new, but the way James approaches her subject matter feels fresh. What begins as a more straightforward yet psychological approach to haunted house fare explodes into full-blown horror in a wholly unexpected way, and Relic marks one audacious debut.” Bloody Disgusting

” …it’s a beautifully photographed movie — and the last 30 minutes are terrifically surprising (and surprisingly tender). Prior to that, it’s a lot of random, undifferentiated Creepy Things happening, with the music and sound design doing a lot of the work. Good overall…” Crooked Marquee

” …I really enjoyed how James was able to roll the realistic tragedy of what this family is enduring into the off-putting and terrifying occurrences that are also happening at the same time, giving the film a palpable sense of dread at every turn […] Anchored by a trio of beautifully nuanced and demanding performances, and a well-crafted script that does a wonderful job of balancing characters and scares…” Daily Dead

Relic takes its time getting to the crowd-pleasing horror part, but when it does it delivers the goods and excites the viewer’s imagination with a stunning conclusion. This is a superior horror film that gives you some realistic scares…” Dennis Schwartz

“If you have a personal connection to the film’s themes and characters, or if you’re open to feeling empathy, the film’s conclusion will wreck you in a myriad of ways. Happily, it’s also a kick-ass horror film with a wonderfully realized execution that will have you nervously smiling from fear as each movement, each sound, and each step brings you closer to the end.” Film School Rejects

” …where The Babadook keeps its monster at arm’s length, the last 30 minutes of Relic are a tour-de-force of intensity and emotion. The haunted house story becomes a descent into hell, full of twists and grotesque imagery, all before James pulls back and reveals the emotionally devastating truth behind her feature debut…” GameSpot

“As Kay and Sam are driven closer together by their fears for Edna, the audience is able to confront its fears: of death, of old age, of losing our memories, of dying alone with no loved ones to care for us in our final moments. The movie takes some bizarre turns as it hurtles toward its climax, but Relic ends on an unexpectedly moving note (if still chilling).” Goomba Stomp

“In plot terms, Relic is probably a little thin on incident to satisfy the hard-core horror contingent, but the control with which James teases out lurking physical menace, mounting claustrophobia and growing psychological unease in her characters is impressive indeed.” The Hollywood Reporter

The director has superb backup from her crafts team, especially DP Charlie Sarroff, whose camera stalks the shadowy corridors, corners, closets and stairs of the big old house like a prowling beast

“I found Relic to be a film with your time to watch despite minor misgivings because it is actually an interesting horror film with more on its mind than a simple build to a climax. This is a poignant observation on ageing and death that is supported by a trio of knockout performances and a female-heavy production.” Horror Buzz

“The first half of Relic feels pretty standard-issue, but it is really setting up a wild turn around the halfway mark. It turns into something really scary and also some legitimately cool cinema craftmanship. It is definitely worth the time investment. Highly recommended for horror fans…” J.B. Spins

“An impressive first feature, humanist in its compassionate consideration of mental fragility and the melancholy inherent in spiritual degeneration, yet never forgetting to deliver spooky frights, Relic could quickly go down as one of the best horror movies of the year when 2020 is over. It’s a terrific, unsettling subversion of the haunted house movie too…” The Playlist

“Viewers could debate endlessly whether The Babadook is a real, physical creature or a manifest metaphor, and they can have the exact same arguments over Relic. But it’s going to be a lot more fun to just give into the well-crafted scares, and to the outsized, uncomfortably relatable emotions of the final scene.” Polygon

“James allows her film to play out like an old-fashioned haunted house movie, tightening the screws through strange shadows under doors and creaking sounds in the walls. And then she drops the hammer, producing a final act that had me sweating, followed by an epilogue that’s open to interpretation and daringly strange.”

“Not everyone will appreciate the ambiguity of a climax that can be read as either an uplifting act of pure and selfless love or a depressing capitulation to the malign forces of inevitable decline, but either way, “art-house horror” has its 2020 tidemark set high.” Variety

Cast and characters:

  • Emily Mortimer … Kay
  • Bella Heathcote … Sam
  • Robyn Nevin … Edna
  • Chris Bunton … Jamie
  • Steve Rodgers … Constable Mike Adler
  • Jeremy Stanford … Alex
  • Catherine Glavicic … Doctor Stanley
  • Christina O’Neill … Grace
  • John Browning … Nursing Home Man
  • Robin Northover … Elderly Man

Technical details:

  • 89 minutes
  • Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1


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