78 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2001
So there I was, beginning to watch "The Relic," and snoring at yet another movie with a beginning sequence of a tribal ritual involving an American observer who ends up finding himself in danger. And then, two minutes later, my interest was peaked, and stayed that way for the movie's running length. "The Relic," while not being the most original monster movie ever made, is certainly a good example for other movies to follow. The story is intelligent and involving, while the suspense keeps viewers involved in a way that is almost frightening by itself.
The movie begins with the aforementioned tribal sequence, then takes us to Chicago, where a mysterious unmanned shipping vessel has made its way to port. On board, Lt. Vincent D'Agosta (Tom Sizemore) finds the mangled corpses of the crew, and does what any other cop would do: puts someone else in charge of getting the details. Days later, at the Museum of Natural History, boxes from the vessel arrive and get the attention of Dr. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller), who finds a mysterious growth she believes to be fungus on the leaves found in the box.
Her examination takes a backseat to the story's main premise, which includes lots of gore and intensity. When a cop is found brutally mutilated in the men's bathroom at the museum, the establishment is closed for investigation, much to the dismay of curator Dr. Ann Cuthbert (Linda Hunt), whose worries about an expensive gala force D'Agosta to hurry his investigation. D'Agosta also stumbles across the fact that the victims found on the ship and the cop are found with a section of the brain removed, the section responsible for hormone release.
The gala goes on according to plan, but soon, things begin to go awry. The museum's security mainframe goes down, enclosing our main characters and a few party attendees inside. Whether or not the creature is responsible for this is left unexplained, as is his intelligence. But he certainly knows his way around the museum, and as the bodies begin to drop, the movie builds itself to an intense climax that has suspense leading up to it all the way.
Much of that suspense is due mostly to Peter Hyams, the director of photography as well as the director of the movie, whose use of shadow and light are a key element in bringing out the fear in all of us. There's nothing scarier than what we can hear but cannot see, and Hyams uses this to his advantage by supplying little light to the movie's most intense moments. Scenes in underground tunnels are lits by flashlights alone, while the museum's basement areas are dim and murky. Not only is this a fright factor, but it gives the movie a sense of style.
That fright is also kept up to speed by keeping the creature's full appearance in the dark until much later in the film. Done in live action and CGI, the monster is authentic-looking and realistic, a very convincing achievement. Not until the last half hour to we get a full revelation of the creature in its entire, and even then, the suspense still keeps coming.
The movie's story is intelligent, providing an explanation for almost every action and reaction seen on camera. The plot does more than just put its characters in dangerous situations, something that most movies of this genre are famous for. It gives the characters a chance to decipher the puzzle and figure out the monster's origins, and while those facts are somewhat laughable and contrived, they are convincing from the mouths of the actors, who do a stunning job on the film.
The movie also seems to poke fun at the many horror tactics used along the years, but keeps up a serious demeanor while doing so. Scenes involving key characters going into dark rooms, hearing sounds and running away, only to find their fears were in vain, give us a sense of relief but also build up a false sense of security. I practically wanted to scream at some of the actions taken by certain people, who, if they've ever seen "Alien," should know better than to do what they do.
I had a lot of fun with "The Relic," a movie that has been downed for its all-too-familiar similarities to other creature features. I found it to be a very refreshing film, one with suspense and thrills galore, providing a story we can actually believe with action and suspense that works us in all the right ways.
44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
I didn't even know The Relic was a book (I have since ordered it) so when I saw this movie in release I just judged it as a Monster Movie. And at that, it came off pretty well.
Although there was some strained credibility in the origin of the creature, my gosh, this is a Monster Movie. Since when did they have anything BUT a strained basis in fact? It made just enough sense to get on with the elements that make a good Monster Movie: a viscious critter doing awful things to human victims; chases; hair-breadth escapes; a slow revealing of the monster; a resourceful heroine in peril....you know, Monster Movie stuff.
If you loved Ray Harryhausen's 50's monster movies (20 Million Miles to Earth, etc.) you will like this film. If you DON'T like the genre, for crying out loud don't get this film.
Looking at the other reviews, I liked most of what others didn't. I liked the darkness. The tunnels lit only by flashlight and the dark recesses of something so mundane as a museum were used exceptionally well to build suspense. I liked the actors and thought they all did well with the material.
I thought Hyam's did a nice job of building to the climax. AND the Critter here is a dandy. Stan Winston did just fine and the combination of full size models and CG worked well and gave the Critter unusual and credible motion.
It is a gory movie done with style. There are some nasty decapitations etc., but this is, after all, a Monster Movie. If you like that stuff, you'll love this flick.
Of course Alien is a better-realized film, but there is still room for another Monster Movie. This is a first-class B movie. It has every right to be judged on its merits, which are considerable. I found it engaging all the way through. I have a fondness for the genre.
3-1/2 to 4 stars. Entertaining all the way. I will now get the book and see what everyone was harping about, but it won't change my opinion on how well the movie works. It may not be the book, but it works as a movie.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2001
Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore topline this engaging suspenser based on the best-selling novel.
Filmed inside Chicago's Field Museum, the movie centers around a horrific brain-feeding beast and its curious link to a missing paleontologist who disappeared while researching a native tribe in Brazil. This monster, designed by special effects master Stan Winston, is unlike anything you're likely to see ever again. As in most other movies like this, you don't get to glimpse it right away. Its presence is more or less represented by an unsettling wheeze that will make you wonder what on earth could be making such a sound. I won't reveal anymore, other than to say it doesn't merely chase its victims down dark and murky underground tunnels--IT GALLOPS AFTER THEM!
Forget what's been said about how overly dark this film was or how much of a letdown it was from the book. If, like me, you are any kind of horror fan who enjoys in-your-face monster movies, you owe it to yourself to buy this and watch it right now!
Watch for an amusing cameo by Audra Lindley, better known as "Mrs. Roper" from "Three's Company."
71 of 90 people found the following review helpful
Workers and visitors at the NY Museum of Natural History are beginning to turn up torn to shreds, and a big exhibit opening is just days away, as the FBI, police and scientists try to figure out who, or what, is hunting people in the dark, labyrinthine corridors of the museum. I am in the camp that thinks this film is a travesty of the fine book by Preston and Child. As I was reading the book I was envisioning scenes and situations and even the monster. You can't help it. The prose is so evocative and thrilling. When I found out theree was a movie? I was thrilled, and saw it about a week later. I was disappointed in every way but one.
First off and unequivocally, they had no business keeping the name of the book when two of the four main characters are eviscerated -- FBI Special Agent Pendergast, the heart of the team, and Bill Smithback, reporter. Unbelievable. So basically they called it Relic because they used the idea of a monster in a museum? Also the monster was not as scary as in the book, not even as scary as the drawing on the cover of the book, except in one scene. The movie did do a better job of having Margo battle the monster using her scientific skills, and one of the last sequences, where the creature is on fire and chasing Margo through the museum, is one of the best effects I've ever seen. It's spectacular. But there were also a lot of scenes that made me howl (with derision) whereas the book is fast, intelligent and scary as all getout. Too bad the filmmakers didn't have more respect for the book.
I tried to view the film as independent from the book, wondering if I'd be afraid if I hadn't read the book first, but I honestly don't think I would. This was a real wasted opportunity. All the material was there for a wonderful scary film, and I hope someone else remakes it somewhere down the line.
Who would play Pendergast?
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2010
As I am sure anyone reading this review has seen the movie, I will primarily focus on the BD. Though it must be said, "The Relic" has held up nicely over time. The story of a monster on the loose in a museum, is the stuff of Saturday afternoon creature features. Complete with a pretty young scientist, and a hard edged cop, all spouting off wonderful creature-feature dialogue about old legends and genetic mutation. What makes the movie work so well is a very nice prestigious cast: Penelope Ann Miller as anthropologist Margo Green, Tom Sizemore, reminding us why he was such an edgy leading man despite his personal demonds, as detetective D'Agosta. Supporting players like James Whitmore, Linda Hunt, and a wonderful cameo by the late Audra Lindley as a foul-mouthed coroner make this the classy gala affair the movie centers on, and makes the proceedings feel more convincing and grounded than they are. Above all, the A-movie production values, courtesy of Gale Ann Hurd give the movie some fabulous special effects both CGI (which have held up nicely) and awesome creature effects by the late Stan Winston. Peter Hyams also managed to get the clearance to let this movie be a hard R-rated affair with lots of gore, decaptiations, and body splitting carnage. Very fun, guilty pleasure of a movie...which while not a runaway hot, still did better than anyone expected and it has developed a loyal cult following. The SD DVD was fine, but had many problems such as compression noise and the low bitrate couldn't handle the crushing shadows and blacks director Peter Hyams employs. It is all the more of a treat that the Blu-ray is given first-rate treatment by LionsGage.
"The Relic" is a dark movie. Very dark. Peter Hyams, acting as his own DOP, employs heavy shadow and even in lit scenes, nothing burns brighter than 12 watts it would seem. This has been a common complaint of the movie as it obstructs seeing the creature or the terrific CGI. On the documentary and commentary, included for the first time on this disc, he makes a great case for why he did it this way. His point is about focusing on natural light only, even when it is too dark, such as the scenes in the tunnels where the police are tracking the beastie...he points out that if they need flashlights to see, why not only show thw audience what is visible by flashlight or other available lighting. This makes a good point and the movie would not have been as effective had it been subjected to increased lighting. It allows us to feel like we are in the dark with them, not knowing what lurks off the light of our flashlight.
The Blu-ray transfer makes for a real treat. The MPEG 4 AVC encode allows the blacks and shadows to render more detail and keeps it true to Hyams' vision. There is no artificial brightening or porcessing used. Hyams made his case in my mind, and the tranfer is free from all of the DVD's flaws, and it looks marvelous. The CGI effects look detailed and textured. There are crushed blacks, but they are from the original master, and not the BD encode. In short, it looks the best it ever has since the editing bay.
The sound is a powerful DTS HD-MA 7.1. It is a house-shaking, booming, exhilarating mix that is immersive (we can hear dripping water from every channel) with wonderful ambient and directional effects, but once the monster mayhem begins, the movie is full of devastating bass and exciting effects as the creature lumbers, runs, rips heads off, gets set on fire, etc. It is a terrific transfer.
The disc has spare feature, but LionsGage recorded a new commentary by Peter Hyams, a new documentary on Hyams, and the theatrical trailer. These items are sure to please fans of the movie. The price is right at $10-12 bucks at most retailers for this first-rate catalogue title. I have watched mine 4 times already. If you love the movie, this is a MUST own. If you love creature features, this one is first rate with plenty on monster gore for fans.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Well, it is always a mistake to read the book before seeing the movie. That said, I liked the movie OK taken by itself, but compared to the book it is pretty vanilla. They moved the action from New York City to Chicago for some unknown reason, and got rid of two of the best characters - Pendergast and Smithback. Also, I was repeatedly annoyed by the lighting, or lack thereof, while watching this. It seems that about half of the movie you spend straining to see what is going on in all the shadows and the other half you're rubbing your eyes because they are shining bright lights directly into the camera *ouch*
Aside from that, I liked the monster effects and I liked that they actually let us *see* the monster; so many "monster" movies never give you a good look at what is running about - I suppose because they don't want to be bothered actually creating the whole thing. But this one had a great monster, and the pacing was good as well. I wanted to smack around some of the annoying rich people, but I guess that was the point!
If you like monster movies and haven't read the book yet, watch the movie first. If you read the book first, you won't enjoy the movie as much. Once you've watched the movie - read the book, 'cause it rocks!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2012
First of all, I loved the book Relic and its sequel Reliquary. It didn't bother me that in this case great liberties were taken with the book when they `transformed' it for the screen. I love the movie as is by not comparing it to the book. No matter what, you will always have the source material, intact; it's not as if it disappears when a movie adaptation comes out.
As for the criticism that most of this movie suffers from poor lighting....I can't argue that point. The lighting is peculiar and not a little deficient. The revelation that surprised even me is that the director Peter Hyams filmed it that way on purpose. He referred to it as "exotic light" consisting of shadow, darkness, hints of shape and movement; the less details seen the better. He wanted confusion; he wanted terror built from what isn't seen as well as what is seen. I might not agree with him on all of that as I am one of those people who like to see everything. I don't believe that much darkness serves his purpose as well as he thought it did, and yet, this is one of my favorite films that I return to often, also upgraded to this Blu-ray version. It's just as exciting the umpteenth time viewed as the first. But it is, literally, dark, even in scenes that didn't make sense. For example, the work space in the museum is also poorly lit. How could scientists work under such conditions, they have to see what they're working on. In addition, the museum is also dimly lit, how are you supposed to see the exhibits without proper lighting? I think a better balance could have been struck between these scenes and the ones in the tunnels where darkness made sense, was even expected. But of course no amount of second guessing is going to do any good at this point. The movie is what it is and I love it. The acting is great, the story moves along quickly, there's plenty of fright along the way as well as humor, and then of course, it stars the incomparable Linda Hunt. Enough said.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2000
I saw this movie before I read the book it was based upon and there are some changes, mostly in the names of the characters and who gets killed. What is implied in the film (which apparently went over the heads of those who gave this movie a negative review) but given some attention in the book was that the Amazonian Indians fed the genetic altering substance to the museum guy because they wanted the monster to destroy civilization and therefore save their rainforest homeland from destruction and development.
Okay, enough insight. I found The Relic to be a very entertaining thriller. I liked Tom Sizemore as Detective D'Agosta and I have always been a fan of Penelope Ann Miller. Like all well paced horror films, The Relic starts out with a small body count and works its way up to a grand finale. The creature, called the Kothoga, is pretty hideous looking. My main problem with the gory climax is that the monster seems to be in more places at once, one minute it kills someone in the sewers below the museum and the next minute it is taking out a SWAT team inside the museum.
If, like me, you are a fan of movies like ALIENS and DEEP RISING, The Relic will be right up your alley.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2010
I was all for expecting The Relic to be another run-of-the-mill monster movie. Boy was I wrong. This just might be the best monster movie I have ever seen, with a believable and action-packed story, good acting and thrilling special effects - thrilling because they bring something thrilling to life; the monster.
Centering around the gala opening night of a museum exhibition in Chicago, "The Relic" follows evolutionary biologist Dr Margo Green and Lt Vincent D'Agosta as they unravel the mystery of a monster that holds the entire museum in its grasp. With the power down and the people trapped in the museum, they have to find a way to escape.
This is one well-conceived and believable story featuring themes such as rapid evolution and mixed DNA. Furthermore, Penelope Ann Miller is superb in the leading role. While the good stuff doesn't begin until about 40 minutes to the end, it sure gets good, with the suspension, action and terror rising.
Of course, the main attraction of The Relic is the monster. Similar to Jaws, the actual monster is hidden for much of the film. There, however, the similarities end. When the wait is over, The Relic reveals itself to be an excellent beast, aesthetic and even beautiful. It's stupendously brought to life with excellent animation. The scenes with the monster wouldn't look out-of-date on the screen today.
Like many excellent films, The Relic has one awful DVD cover. It says nothing about the thrill and even beauty of what is found within. I use the term "beauty" loosely, there's some gruesome things that happen but nothing that steps over the line too much. Overall, The Relic is an excellent film. Bear with it for its first half and watch with your eyes glued to the screen as it draws towards its conclusion. I won't even spoil how the beast looks, you need to see it for yourself.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2005
Maybe I'm just naive, but I completely fail to understand why this movie receives so much unfair negativity. As a life-long fan of horror and monster movies, I was thoroughly entertained.
My spouse and I caught "The Relic" in an overly chilled and packed theater with some friends of ours a short while after its release, years before I ever bothered to read the book, and the DVD has been a mainstay of our collection ever since.
While I do admit the novel did go into a little more detail and flesh out more of the movie's weaker moments, I was still able to accept both mediums for what they were. I've never been the type of person who rips a movie to thousands of gory shreds because it didn't perfectly follow the novel it was based upon. Movies hardly ever stick to their source media one hundred percent; that's just a given. I was an avid reader of Fangoria magazine at the time, so I was already aware of the creative changes that were made within the screenplay. There would be no Bill Smithback or Detective Pendergast. The brain-sucking creature, Kothoga, was actually called "Mbwun" in the book, and the film was set in Chicago instead of New York. I've since read the Preston/Child novel from cover to cover and these differences, while admittedly extreme in comparison, do not adversely affect my positive opinion of the film. I rather liked Tom Sizemore's portrayal of Lieutenant D'Agosta. He seemed right for the role. James Whitmore, Linda Hunt, and Penelope Ann Miller were also uniform picks.
But the real star, hands down, is the creature, itself! This "thing," for lack of a better word, is straight out of your worst nightmare! It reminded me, quite frankly, of something I'd expect to see in a "Resident Evil" game. It's presence throughout the film was precipitated by a wet sort of snuffling sound. It was enough to set my every nerve on edge, sitting in that dark theater, because I couldn't begin to imagine what could possibly be making that sort of noise! And when it was finally revealed during the film's final reel, I was not disappointed. The legendary Stan Winston is known for his contributions to such films as "Aliens, Jurassic Park, Predator, and Pumpkinhead." But here, he created a unique and truly terrifying beast! From the moment it shows up, all bets are off and this movie plunges into classic old-school monster mode!
If you haven't already been able to figure it out, by virtue of my enthusiasm, I had an all out blast with this flick! It won't appeal to everybody, I grant you, but it was far from the irredeemable garbage that so many here are making it out to be.