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

Photo credit: IFC Midnight / Jackson Finter
By digital spy
A haunted house movie may not be at the top of your watch list after months of indoor use, but you should definitely make an exception for Relic.
The horror film - Executive by Avengers: Anthony and Joe Russo from Endgame via AGBO Films - had a large audience at its premiere in Sundance earlier this year and was scheduled to play SXSW until the festival was canceled.
The feature film debut by author / director Natalie Erika James will be one of the most talked about horror films of the year for a reason. Relic is not only one of the most terrifying horrors of the year, but also one of the best films of 2020.
Photo credit: IFC Midnight / Jackson Finter
Relic begins with Kay (Emily Mortimer) and Sam (Bella Heathcote), who return to their dilapidated family home after the mysterious disappearance of family matriarch Edna (Robyn Nevin).
There is no evidence of her whereabouts in the house, although it is clear that Edna has dementia. Edna is coming back to Sam's joy soon, but Kay is concerned that Edna refuses to tell where she has been.
Edna doesn't seem to be what mother and grandmother Kay and Sam used to know, and they start to suspect that there might be something else in the house that has control over them.
But can the family pull themselves together to face the ultimate fear together?
Photo credit: Sundance Institute
You may think you know what Relic has to offer, but it is absolutely a fresh version of a haunted house story.
It's not about things that bump into the night or cheap fear of jumping, but rather about creating a noticeable atmosphere of creeping fear.
Sure, things toast here at night - it's just that you may not recognize them or trust that it wasn't just your imagination.
Relic is a perfect slow burn horror that also appeals to those who are not a fan of slow burn movies.
The first half may not always be a scare when you expect one, but the time you spend connecting with the characters means that you feel their scare when the movie releases.
When you have such a limited number of characters, you all need them in your game and Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote and Robyn Nevin are all excellent. It will be difficult for you to find three more live performances this year.
Photo credit: Sundance Institute
And as soon as Relic has drawn you into his world, director Natalie Erika James, who also wrote the film together with Christian White, goes into high gear in an intense and terrible last third, while the house becomes the main character.
It's a breathtaking climax, but what Relic really brings home is that James hits you with an emotional fool you don't expect. The film is less interested in solving all of the puzzles than in leaving you with a haunting and moving final sequence.
James was inspired by her grandmother's fight against Alzheimer's and called the writing process "cathartic".
Relic elevates this personal experience above your standard horror tariff. Anyone who has led a family member through something similar will find Relic a very personal and probably heartbreaking experience.
Relic will be released in U.S. theaters and VOD on July 10. A release date in the UK has yet to be confirmed.
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