A female-centric, intergenerational haunted house story of the highest order, Relic takes the terrifying conceit of senile dementia and transforms it into a supernatural entity that engulfs sufferers and those who care for them.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2020
This film is screening in select cinemas and venues across the country. See here for details.
Like the much-heralded The Babadook (NZIFF14), Relic was a Sundance standout that announced a major talent from down under: Japanese-Australian director Natalie Erika James, whose spooky new feature landed with the backing of Hollywood heavyweights Jake Gyllenhaal and the Russo Bros (Avengers).
Refreshingly observant and tender for a horror film, Relic is made all the more arresting through the intimate performances of its three leads. When her disconcertingly odd mother Edna (Robyn Nevin) is reported missing, Kay (Emily Mortimer) travels with her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) to her mother’s isolated house in the countryside. When Edna reappears with injuries, she refuses to talk, setting the stage for a slow descent into psychological horror, with the house itself intensifying the claustrophobia and atmospherics at hand.
Like its cinematic forebearers Legend of Hell House and The Haunting, a long-simmering arcane history of a home begins to leak out and smother the occupants. This simmering fusion of J-Horror spookiness and the real life terror of caring for parents nearing their final departure makes James’ debut that rare beast in genre film – a stylistic triumph that is equally scary and compassionate. — Ant Timpson
About the Filmmaker
Natalie Erika James is a Japanese-Australian writer and director based in Melbourne. Relic is her debut feature. She is next set to direct a feature-length version of her 2018 Japanese folk horror short film, Drum Wave.