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  • 4 out of 5 stars
Photograph: IFC Films

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A stylish Australian horror flick positions dementia as the encroaching evil seeping through the bones of a crumbling home

Australia has a solid reputation for spooky horror movies, whether it’s the slasher thrills of Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek franchise or the psychological chills of Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook. Natalie Erika James delivers the latter with this unnerving and stylish film, co-written with The Nowhere Child author Christian White. Fans of The Shining and Hereditary will appreciate Relic’s fusion of fraught family drama with haunted house creeper that hinges on powerful performances by Emily Mortimer (Mary Poppins Returns), Robyn Nevin (Top of the Lake) and Bella Heathcote (The Neon Demon). 

Nevin plays Edna, a recent widow whose disappearance brings estranged daughter Kay (Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Heathcote) to her crumbling home in rural Victoria. When Edna suddenly reappears, her increasingly frantic signs of dementia could be down to the vagaries of age – or is something more sinister seeping through those putrid stains on the walls of her underlit home? Expertly turning the screw in a taut 90 minutes, James offers sharp pangs that will be keenly felt by anyone who has wrestled with the decision to place a loved one within a care facility. Nevin’s startling performance conveys the nightmare of a life unmoored, washing away like the bathwater cascading downstairs in the eerie opening shot of this thoroughly discomfiting debut.

Relic is in UK cinemas Oct 30. It’s streaming now on Stan in Australia and Vudu in the US.

Written by
Stephen A Russell

Cast and crew

  • Director:Natalie Erika James
  • Screenwriter:Natalie Erika James, Christian White
  • Cast:
    • Emily Mortimer
    • Bella Heathcote
    • Robyn Nevin
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