Someone somewhere sometime recommended The Relic to me. I can’t recollect who, where, or when, so I’m not sure in which direction to point the blame. (Or maybe they recommended Relic…) Weekend afternoons are drowsy times, and rather than sleep, I prefer to watch movies. Those on my wish-watch list don’t often coincide with what’s on the streaming services available to me, so I try to recall those recommended to me at some point. I mean, The Relic sounds like it should be good: a Meso-American god that’s part lizard, part beetle, and part mammal rampaging through a major museum? Well, what’s not to like? Monsters are usually fun. This one requires hormones from the hypothalamus to survive, so it beheads people to get at their brains.
Now, if you’re not a fan this will sound goofy to you. The thing is, in the right hands such a film could be very good. I hear that the novel upon which it’s based is. Unfortunately the script and the acting don’t really hold up. The sciencey explanation doesn’t make sense—the evolution from eating certain leaves is too rapid, outpacing even the monsters in Evolution. And when we learn that the mammal DNA comes from a human, it raises the question of whether indigestion was mistaken for evolution. Of course, the monster—shown a little too early—is a chimera. Since it’s part bug and part gecko it can walk up walls, which is admittedly pretty cool. But the holes in the plot don’t ever really get filled so it’s a lot of running through tunnels in the dark with flashlights.
When I read the description that it involved a god-monster I thought I’d figured out why it’d been recommended. Religion and horror share gods and monsters, so I thought maybe something would’ve been made of this. The scenes where the carving of Kothoga is being prepped make no sense—you use carving tools to excavate fossils, not statues—and we learn nothing of this intriguing deity beyond that it was released to eat your enemies brains and when it ran out of brains, it dies. Of course, it can eat leaves as well. Ironically and paradoxically, the film makes me want to read the novel to get a fuller explanation. The combination of gods and monsters is rich territory to explore and when those making a movie credit the audience with enough intelligence to make this work, it might be enough to keep you awake on a drowsy weekend afternoon. Or it might keep you awake even if they don’t.