Director – Peter Hyams
Cast – Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore, Linda Hunt, James Whitmore, Clayton Rohner, Chi Muoi Lo, Thomas Ryan, Robert Lesser, Diane Robin, Lewis Van Bergen, Constance Towers, Francis X McCarthy
Release Year – 1997
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This flick was one of my favorite creature films growing up. I had actually forgotten about this flick for quite some time, but thanks to Amazon I was able to find a used copy(it is now out of production) and gave this flick another watch. Thankfully, I enjoyed this film just as much as I did as a youngster. Why? Anytime you mix a horror film with biological science, you have hit my sweet spot.
The Relic stars Penelope Ann Miller as Dr. Margo Green, a researcher working on a new DNA identification software at Chicago’s Natural History Museum. One of her colleagues, John Whitney, is doing research in Brazil, sending his findings back to the museum. This latest shipment from Mr. Whitney contains something never seen before my mankind. The museum’s biggest day of the year is 24 hours away, and grisly mysterious murders are taking place around the museum. Veteran Lt. Vincent D’Agosta(Tom Sizemore) has been called to investigate the piling body count. He soon begins to believe that the murders could not have been perpetrated by a human being, and enlists the help of Dr. Green to find what is causing the murders. Unfortunately, the mayor of the city has ignored Lt. D’Agosta’s recommendations of shutting down the next day’s events, which leaves the genetically complex creature with a buffet of the city’s biggest names.
This film added an interesting element to the it’s “creature feature” element by having the bulk of this film take place in a pretty sweet museum. I love museums, and regardless of museum, thanks to their stuffed animals and dinosaur skeletons they always look creepy at night. Atmosphere guys, it is everything. The museum setting was perfect because it added so many dark and shadowy twists and turns for the creature to hide about, and to set up many kills on the film’s protagonists.
The storyline was an interesting one as well. We didn’t get the usual ridiculous plot of a creature feature, but one that threw in more theory behind it’s creature. The biological aspect was what really appealed to me. It can get cheezy at times, but it still keeps the bio geeks like me engaged in the film. Character-wise this film does get a bit cliché, but hell, this is a 90s flick, nearly all of them are cliché. Dr. Margo Green was the usual hard working yet embattled scientists desperately needing a new grant to complete her work. Lt. Vince D’Agosta was the usual hard-nosed cop with an axe to grind. Does it work though? Yes it does. It does not detriment from the film, and that is what matters.
Director Peter Hyams did a find job with the film, and surprisingly threw in a fair amount of gore. This being a Hollywood film I was expecting very little gore, but this director of 2010 surpassed my expectations. Then again, when you read my take on the creature you will see just why this film was so gory. His pacing is well done, the film never dragged and kept giving us some development after development, ever important in a horror film.
Now onto the biggest star of the film…the creature. I personally LOVE the look of this creature. I will try not to give too much away, but let’s just say it is a splice of several organisms that grows to massive and deadly size. This brute has an insatiable drive to feed on hormones, which leads it to crave the control center of human hormones…the hypothalamus. Because of this, the creature has to decapitate all of it’s victims in order to get to the gland. Hell yeah! Could this thing sound any more awesome?
Overall, this is an awesome creature film that I recommend to fans of such flicks. One of the best there is in this horror sub-genre, we get a sweet story, a great creature, some cool gore, and a fun ride overall from beginning to end.