Relic is being hailed as “the best horror film of 2020” – here’s why

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Relic is a film that’s every bit as horrifying as it is heartbreaking.

Updated on 13 July: horror is definitely the genre of 2020. Indeed, over the next few months, we will see a plethora of terrifying tales hit cinemas as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased across the country.

There’s Antebellum, Janelle Monáe’s all-too-timely tale of a successful author who finds herself unexpectedly transported to a 19th-century plantation. There’s Candyman, which has been described as a spiritual sequel to the original supernatural horror film of the same name. There’s Shirley, Elisabeth Moss’ twisted tale about horror author Shirley Jackson. There’s The Rental, too, a film which is, essentially, all about an Airbnb holiday gone wrong.

One that we’re particularly looking forward to, though? Relic – as in, yes, the same Relic which debuted to critical acclaim at Sundance in January – from first-time director Natalie Erika James.

Here’s everything you need to know about it.

What’s the plot of Relic?

In a nutshell? Three generations of women reunite in their rickety childhood home after elderly matriarch Edna goes missing. But, when Edna mysteriously reappears with no explanation, the women are forced to confront an unknowing, ominous presence that threatens every single one of them.

So far, so basic haunted house horror. However, there’s far more to it than that. 

Speaking to Bloody Disgusting, James has explained that the entirety of the film’s narrative and the horror is built around Edna’s journey with dementia and its effect on her family.

Death is such a universal thing,” she says. “Everybody’s dealt with it. So, it doesn’t really matter whether your loved one suffered from Alzheimer’s, other means, or just old age. I think these things apply to everyone.”

The director, who was inspired to write the film after watching her own grandmother battle Alzheimer’s disease, continued: “Obviously, the writing of it for me was very emotional, but my grandmother passed a week after we found out that we got into Sundance. It was all very immediate. 

“My parents were able to be with me for the Sundance screening, luckily. I was so shit-scared that they’d hate it. I even sent them the script as a forewarning because you never know, but they loved it. It was incredibly moving for everyone.” 

In a separate interview with The Guardian, James added: “The film talks specifically about Alzheimer’s, but it also applies to anyone who is experiencing loss in all its forms – in having to parent their own parents, or seeing their decline. 

“It’s a really emotionally fraught situation because there’s often the sense of the grandparents needing help, but being unwilling to ask for it as well.”

Is there a trailer for Relic?

You can watch the trailer for Relic below:

Who makes up the cast of Relic?

The cast of Relic is made up as follows:

  • Emily Mortimer as Kay
  • Robyn Nevin as Edna
  • Bella Heathcote as Sam
  • Chris Bunton as Jamie
  • Jeremy Stanford as Alex
  • Steve Rodgers as Constable Mike Adler

What are people saying about Relic?

Relic, which has drawn comparisons to Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and Ari Aster’s Hereditary, currently boasts a ‘fresh’ rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. And its practical effects, sense of dread, slow-burn story, and ‘go for the jugular’ ending have been met with critical acclaim, too.

Variety called it “impressively scarifying.” Flickering Myth piled praise upon the film, too, noting that “James has delivered something here which supersedes horror as a genre and instead addresses the horrific realities of impending old age.” And Digital Fix branded it “the best horror and most emotionally-charged film of 2020” – a sentiment which has also been shared by many other reviewers.

When will Relic be released in cinemas?

The horror film has a UK release slated for 5 October 2020, which means it’ll be perfectly placed to get us all in the mood for Halloween. 

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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