Paramount // 1997 // 109 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 31st, 2000
The next evolution in terror.
Following in the footsteps of such big-budget movies as Anaconda and Deep Blue Sea, The Relic became a surprise blockbuster in the fall of 1997. Featuring a B-rate case including Tom Sizemore (Red Planet), Penelope Ann Miller (Awakenings) and James Whitmore (The Shawshank Redemption), plus special effects by effects master Stan Winston (of Jurassic Park fame), The Relic is a monster movie that is much better than it should be. Paramount has released a bare bones version of The Relic on DVD.
On the opening night of a new exhibit in the Chicago Field Museum, something new is lurking among the antiquities and artifacts...something that is unholy and takes your breath away...
HAHA! No, I'm just kidding. It's a big, ugly slobbering man-beast! However, I'm not sure which is scarier...Mr. Slobbering man-beast, or Mr. Shore. Rent Encino Man and you be the judge.
So, this big slobbering thing (which was transported from another country where people wear no shoes and beat lots of drums) is loose in the museum with only Dr. Green (Miller) and Lt. D'Agosta (Sizemore) to stop it. Where did it come from? How did it get to Chicago? And did it have the fish or the chicken on the way over?
These, my friends, are questions that beg answers.
Along the way, we meet a lot of characters that are either A.) Obviously bad guys (because they don't get along with the good guys), B.) comedic relief (because man-beast monsters like jokes too!) or are C.) fodder for the grinder ("Hey, is that thing drooling on my tuxedo jacke-AAHHHHHHRRGGHH!"). All right, all right...this isn't Shakespeare. Come to think of it, this isn't even a Danielle Steel novel. But it is fun nonetheless.
As monster movies go, in the end we have big explosions and lots of running and ducking and yelling and screaming and close calls and...well, would you have it any other way? I didn't think so.
I'm sorry, but I'm not ashamed to say that I enjoyed The Relic. I know a lot of people who think this movie sucks, but I really had a fun time when I saw it in the theaters (twice...one on my own and once on a really BAD date! SHE was a slobbering man-beast in and of herself). I'm partial to monster movies, but I wasn't a huge fan of Anaconda. I did like Deep Blue Sea but in both of those movies, the monsters always looked a tad bit computer generated. One thing that's impressive in The Relic is the fact that most of the special effects look very realistic without a trace of CGI involvement. I expected this to be a lot like then latter films...however, The Relic turned out to be quite a good popcorn movie. The monster (when we finally see him) is a really grotesque looking thing. I mean, HEY, it was no orange monkey, like in Lost In Space, but we can't all be winners, can we? (If you didn't pick up heavy sarcasm there, you obviously have buck teeth and live in a trailer with a girl named "Bobbie Jo.")
I'm also probably partial to the fact that this took place in Chicago, where I grew up. The Chicago Field Museum is a place that I spent many a childhood day, so it was fun to watch this "thing" run around, tearing peoples heads off and spitting them out like olive pits. I can tell you first hand that NEVER happened when I went to the museum. At MOST you might see a kid squirt milk from his nose while laughing. And, unfortunately, even that was a rarity.
The characters in this are portrayed well, with Sizemore doing his best cop routine (a part he could do in his sleep). Or is it Michael Madsen? I dunno...I get all these heavy Italian looking actors mixed up. Anyhow, the part is handled well, as is Penelope Ann Miller's character, Dr. Margo Green, a hard-as-nails evolutionary biologist (yes, I am going to use all those words in the same sentence) who is racing against time to find out what "the relic" is.
The supporting cast includes James Whitmore as Albert Frock, an old fuddy duddy who...well, is just there to be an old fuddy duddy. But it's good to see him up on screen again. Linda Hunt plays the host of the social event, and she lights up the screen (all six inches of her, that is). Ah, what am I saying? They're all just chicken wings on the human smorgasbord.
The Relic is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, and looks generally good. This is a very dark film, and some shots seemed a tad bit soft, but overall the transfer is very nice. I detected no artifacting, no color bleeding...a decent transfer overall. Audio was equally done well, the Dolby 5.1 mix being smooth with no drowning out of music, dialogue or sound effects. Paramount does a nice job with both the transfer and the audio mix.
For extras, Paramount once again gives us the awe-inspiring theatrical trailer, fun for a view or two, that's about it. But, The Relic wasn't some super smash hit, so I guess we shouldn't be THAT surprised there is no special edition (then again, Hudson Hawk was a bomb and IT still got a commentary track...makes you wonder, doesn't it)?
Although I thoroughly enjoyed The Relic, I did find some inconsistencies along the way. For one, how did a boat from Africa get to Chicago? Is there some canal open to the Pacific or Atlantic that I'm not aware of? Also, the plot, at times, seems a bit muddled and squashed together (this was originally a best-selling novel). It feels like they did a quick rush to explain where the beast came from.
Of course, extras are always a sore spot with me, but this time I didn't even bring my soapbox. We're dealing with Paramount here, so what's the point?
For the price, this disc is a bit high for what you're getting (basically just the movie), but you could do A LOT worse buying a horror movie (such as Anchor Bay's unbelievably bad Night Of The Living Dead 30th Anniversary disc). I'd suggest this guy as a rental to see if you like it. Then do some shopping around and see what you can find it for a cheaper price at a used DVD place. Or borrow a buddy's copy and disappear by moving to The Netherlands.
Just barely free to go (because of being a bare-bones version), but it's a fun popcorn flick, so we'll give it another chance. Court dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer