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Relic, The

Entry updated 12 July 2021. Tagged: Film.

Film (1997). Cloud Nine Entertainment and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Marubeni Corporation, Toho-Towa, Tele München Fernseh Produktionsgesellschaft, Pacific Western Productions and the BBC present in association with Paramount Pictures. Directed by Hyams. Producers include Gale Anne Hurd and Sam Mercer. Written by Rick Jaffa, Amy Holden Jones, John Raffo and Amanda Silver, based on Relic (1995) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Cast includes Linda Hunt, Robert Lesser, Chi Muoi Lo, Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore, Lewis Van Bergen and James Whitmore. 110 minutes. Colour.

A Monster from the Amazon terrorizes Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

"According to this data that thing started out as a human."

The jumble of quasi-scientific explanations for the existence of the creature is a little disorienting but The Relic registers as good, simple fun nonetheless. Doctor of Anthropology John Whitney (Van Bergen) returns from a trip to the Brazilian rainforest having ingested indigenous leaves bearing a hormone-saturated fungus, thereby turning himself into the mythical forest chimera the "Kothoga" (see Supernatural Creatures). The creature is hungry for hormones and first attacks the crew of a ship before moving on to the occupants of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, removing the heads of its victims and feasting on their hypothalami in order to stimulate its growth into a seven-foot quadruped. Evolutionary biologist Dr Margo Green (Miller) and police detective Vincent D’Agosta (Sizemore) (see Biology; Crime and Punishment) combine forces to decipher the DNA of the creature as it causes more fatalities and finally gate-crashes the grand opening of the museum’s "Superstition" exhibition before being incinerated.

The B-movie atmosphere is much accentuated by Horror prosthetics and early-era computer-generated imagery, while familiar Clichés such as the othering of "primitive" tribes, grant-hungry Scientists and the mayor (Lesser) who insists the exhibition go ahead are all present and correct, with the aesthetics of films from King Kong (1933) to Alien (1979) being liberally referenced throughout. Various implements of Imaginary Science such as the "Callisto Effect" (a sudden evolutionary aberration) are employed but The Relic is none the worse for being a Monster Movie with some of the attributes of a Disaster, as the guests and staff of the Field Museum are forced to flee the monster through disused coal-tunnels beneath the City. Character-interplay is witty, the cast likeable and the film does not take itself too seriously. [MD]


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