Modern horror has carved out its own identity in the indie scene, with some of the most notable independent films of the past decade revealing in horror roots. Whether it be Aster’s ‘Hereditary’, Eggers’ ‘The Witch’ or Kent’s ‘The Babadook’, recent horror cinema has certainly carved out its home in the indie genre. With Natalie Erika James’ feature debut, ‘Relic’, James joins the indie-horror scene with a fantastic debut film that occasionally shocks the audience to the core, and intrigues them up until the final frame.
Following a mother and daughter struggling to cope with a grandmother’s dementia, ‘Relic’ explores the mental illness with horrifying sincerity. I have seen the horrors of dementia first hand, and upon seeing the trailer many weeks ago, this film became a must-watch for me – and it did not disappoint. The subject matter, as it is so close to me, made me intrigued as to how they could both handle it delicately but also create a terrifying experience. Luckily James manages both. The film never seems to glorify the struggle with dementia, and despite the Grandmother serving as the antagonist for the majority of the film, there is an emotional core to her character that leaves the audience with plenty to sympathize with.
The three lead performances are all superb, especially Robyn Nevin playing Edna, the grandmother. She manages to strike a fine balance between emotional subtly and harrowing horror, and every time she is on screen she steals the show. Equal to the cast above, the family house itself feels like a fully developed character. In the final act, the house manages to serve as a horrific manifestation of fear and confusion, and from a technical standpoint the film excels strongest here.
Whilst not as refined and breathtaking as ‘Hereditary’, a film that ‘Relic’ will constantly be compared to due to its subject matter, ‘Relic’ is still a solid directorial debut from James. The film won’t give you a scare a minute, like most mainstream horror experiences, but if you’ve been enthralled by the independent horror scene over the last decade as I have – you’ll find something to enjoy here.