relic_1Welcome to Reel Rewind, a semi-monthly column in which I’ll revisit some of our favorite/overlooked films, bringing along artists that I can’t get enough of. We’ll team up for some fun collaborations and bridge the gap between film appreciation and art. For the entire month of October, creatures, spooks and things that shouldn’t be are taking over the column to celebrate Halloween! Be afraid, be very afraid!

Year: 1997
Director: Peter Hyams
Writer(s): Amy Holden Jones, Johan Raffo, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, novel by Douglas Preston
Region of Origin: U.S.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: R
35mm, Color, 110 mins

Peter Hyams’ The Relic was released to mixed reviews in 1997, bashed by critics for being derivative yet above average. Revisiting it now, it’s a rarity in today’s film climate, touting an original creature from the late Stan Winston and a fun hybrid of adventure, mystery and gore. Think Die Hard, Night at the Museum and Alien all mashed together like some sort of weird creature; it’s far from perfect, but far from a bad way to spend a Saturday night. In all honesty, there’s far worse than this in terms of creature features, and despite being cobbled together from a variety of better films, it still beats about 95% of all the remakes out there while never taking itself too seriously. Coupled with some stellar creature effects, the film is more fun than not, a relic itself of a time before rampant horror sequels and phony CGI spectacle.

The story begins when an anthropologist from Chicago’s Museum of Natural History unwittingly ships back an ancient fungus from a newly discovered South American tribe. In the wake of his disappearance, an evolutionary biologist named Dr. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller) takes an interest in the specimen to find some disturbing results. While all of this is going on, a freighter originally thought to be carrying the dangerous cargo is found adrift with dead bodies missing a certain substance from the brain. When a body with the same MO is found in the museum, a homicide detective named Vincent D’Agosta (Tom Sizemore) is sent in to connect the dots. Unbeknownst to the detectives and the museum staff, the source of their problems is a lethal abomination that should’ve went extinct ages ago. With an important gala set to occur, it’s a race against time to find the culprit before it takes more lives and threatens to become a much bigger problem.

relic_2Besides the creature (which we’ll get to soon), what the film has most going for it is that it’s fun. This isn’t the type of horror film that tests your limits or is lined with Satanic or demonic overtones, it just wants to thrill you in the most popcorn way — and it does so pretty well. The first thing you’ll notice is how slowly the film begins, acting first as a murder mystery with slight supernatural overtones, building story and suspense instead of a series of blatant jump scares. Along the way, there’s a procedural element that slowly peels back an interesting mythology about missing evolutionary links before firing into a third act where the trapped creature unleashes hell within the museum. The mixture of adventure and horror works well and makes sense with the story, even throwing in a few quirky subplots like D’Agosta’s custody battle over a dog for moments of levity.

Perhaps the saving grace of the film however is the creature designed by Crash McCreery and brought to life by Stan Winston. Hidden by impressionistic shadows until the berserker third act, it’s an angry looking beast born from a bizarre biological cocktail, giving it a few cool tricks to add to its arsenal of destruction. The success here is that apart from a few minimal sequences of brief CGI, the FX work has held up pretty well, still coming off as lifelike and with a tactile quality that can’t be replicated with CG technology. When it does come time for the reveal, it feels earned and keeps things fresh, keeping our interest until then with some impressive practical work via brutal deaths and even a creepy creature autopsy. Needless to say, the film isn’t afraid to show the savage extent of what its monster can do, with heads and brain matter flying left and right with slimy aplomb.

Ultimately, The Relic’s late 90s roots show but don’t necessarily hurt the film thanks to some fun performances its skillful use of practical creature carnage. For those who can’t get enough of claws and teeth ripping through flesh and bone, this film is a safe bet.

Crome Rating: 3/5

And now for David Moscati’s great poster for the film! This was created from his desire to draw the creature, and I must say, that after revisiting the film, I’m a fan of the hulking oddity. I like how David’s skillfully used just 3 colors and keep an aura of mystery around the character while still defining it vividly. Smart solution all around! David’s got a lot of stuff in the works, having worked with a handful of great galleries around the U.S. Check out his website where you’ll find more work, and don’t forget to follow him on Twitter and Facebook for breaking updates and news!

David_Moscati_Relic_Full Moscati_Relic_detail2 Moscati_Relic_detail

Keep checking the site weekly for more reviews, art and giveaways — this is just the start!