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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Day 221: The Relic

The Relic
Red is totally your color

Monsters, monsters everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Or something like that. If that's not how the saying goes, it should be. Monsters are the bread and butter of the horror genre, not just movies. When books, comics, television, and video games need a scary villain, they go with monsters. They can come from outer space or under the sea, from magic or from our ancient past. They can look and act like whatever we desire. Sometimes they are written with strict rules, such as vampires or werewolves, but outside of the classic monsters, any goes. This is a huge advantage for new monster movies because the freedom allows the creators to let loose and have fun.

The Relic is a 1997 science-fiction horror movie based on the novel of the same name written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln child. The movie stars Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan, Red Planet) as Chicago police Lt. Vincent D'Agosto. A ship from Brazil is found floating aimlessly in Lake Michigan with no crew on board. Believing the disappearances are drug-related, D'Agosto and his partner Sgt. Hollingsworth search the ship, and discover mutilated bodies in the bilge. Dr. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller, Kindegarten Cop, The Freshman), an evolutionary biologist at the Museum of Natural History in Chicago, has received crates containing some jungle leaves and a stone statue of a mystical monster called Kothoga. The leaves appear to have some fungus on them, so Margo decides to analyze them. That night, a security guard is horrifically murdered by an unseen assailant. D'Agosto investigates the bloody scene and believes there is a connection between this murder and the empty ship. Believing the killer may still be inside the museum, he orders the building closed. An autopsy reveals that the security guard had his hypothalamus removed from his brain.Margo's analysis of the fungus shows that it contains hormones found in several different animals, supposedly an impossible feat. Two police officers searching the museum come across a homeless ex-con living in the museum and shoot him when he attacks them. Pressured by the mayor, D'Agosto reopens the museum so the rich locals can celebrate a gala event. That night, the security systems go haywire, trapping the guests, Margo, and D'Agosto. They are soon attacked by an enormous, reptilian monster, the real life Kothoga. The Kothoga grabs people by the head, ripping out their hypothalamus so it can injest their hormones, causing it to evolve and grow stronger. Margo believes that it started out as a small animal that mutated when it ate the fungus from the leaves. How will D'Agosto and Margo stop this monster before it is unleashed on the city?

Another awkward high school yearbook photo

It is very easy to confuse The Relic with the movie Mimic. Both came out in 1997, the heroine is a beautiful scientist, and the monster is an evolving animal. It can also be compared to the movie Alien , with the location just being switched from space to a museum. The Relic goes a more scientific route than Mimic, going into the specifics of hormones, animal genes, and cultural anthropology. It is certainly a welcome addition to the monster genre where a lot of movies tend to either glance over or completely ignore the scientific explanation of what is happening. The problem is that the movie gets a little too specific with hormones and other scientific information. Combine this with a run-time of 110 minutes and the story became slow and bogged-down at certain points. They tried to alleviate this with some good “end of the world” panic and violence, but that doesn't occur until the last 40 minutes of the movie. The monster itself looks pretty good, with a smart mixture of “live” rubber and latex and computerized. For 1997, the special effects look pretty good. The movie wisely keeps the monster in shadows and darkness, making it's reveal all the more terrifying.

The movie also possesses a fun charm to it not seen in a lot of monster movies. This is due in large part to Tom Sizemore, who plays Lt. D'Agosto very well. He's hard-nosed, but smart, never coming off as a superhero cop, like a John McClane or Steven Seagal playing Steven Seagal in a Steven Seagal movie. Penelope Ann Miller is good in her role as well and has decent chemistry with Sizemore. The movie does tend to have cliches, such as a doctor doing whatever he can to keep the museum open despite the danger, rich people being attacked by the monster, and the super-specialized scientist who is the only person capable of stopping the monster. Despite being a simple monster movie, The Relic manages to still be entertaining. If you like special effects (by mid 1990's standards) and gore, you'll really get a kick out of The Relic. When I say gore, I mean lots of evisceration, decapitations, bloods, and brains. There is probably more body parts in this movie than some “torture porn” horror movies. It all serves a purpose, though, and is never shoved in the audience's face.

Are you saying you lost my jars?

The Relic is your typical monster story that still manages to be entertaining. It tries to include more science than your average horror movie, and while I appreciate the effort, they could have pared it down for timing purposes. At 110 minutes, the movie does drag at certain points. It has plenty of violence and gore to keep people entertained with some sly humor thrown in to lighten the mood. Both Tom Sizemore and Penelope Ann Miller put in good performances that give the movie a lot of charm. Though it is similar to Mimic, The Relic is certainly it's own movie and worth a watch.


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