Relic (2020 film)

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Relic poster.jpeg
Official promotional poster
Directed byNatalie Erika James
Written by
  • Natalie Erika James
  • Christian White
Produced by
CinematographyCharlie Sarroff
Edited by
  • Denise Haratzis
  • Sean Lahiff
Music byBrian Reitzell
Distributed by
Release date
  • 25 January 2020 (2020-01-25) (Sundance)
  • 7 March 2020 (2020-03-07) (United States)
  • 7 October 2020 (2020-10-07) (Australia)
Running time
89 minutes[1]
Box office$2.2 million[3][2]

Relic is a 2020 Australian psychological horror film directed by Natalie Erika James from a screenplay by James and Christian White. The film stars Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, and Bella Heathcote.

Relic had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 25 January 2020, and was released on 3 July 2020 in the United States by IFC Midnight, and July 10 in Australia on Stan.[4]


When Edna, the demented, elderly, and widowed matriarch of the family, goes missing, her daughter Kay and granddaughter Sam travel to their remote family home to find her. They discover the house locked from the inside, and a strange black mould-like substance on an upstairs wall. Much of the furniture has been adorned with Post-it notes of reminders for Edna.

That night, Sam is visited by their young neighbour Jamie, who states that he had not been to visit Edna for a while after his father had told him not to go back to the house. Sam and Kay grow increasingly disturbed by a loud creaking from inside the walls and the appearance of more black mould throughout the house. Kay experiences nightmares of a withered rotting corpse in an old shack in the woodlands.

The next morning, Kay finds Edna has returned, barefoot and muddied, and unaware of her own disappearance. Following a visit from a doctor, Edna is found to be mostly of sound mind and without injury with the exception of a large black bruise on her chest (resembling the mould). Kay tells Sam that she plans to move Edna into a retirement home, given her self-neglect. That night, Kay awakes to find Edna sleepwalking toward the front door, whispering, "It's nothing". After being brought back to bed, Edna is convinced there is something hiding in the room and urges Kay to check under the bed; Kay sees something breathing but is distracted before she can investigate further.

The next day, Sam and her grandmother share a tender moment until Edna suddenly grows cold and accuses Sam of stealing from her. She snatches the ring off of Sam's finger (not remembering that she had gifted Sam this ring). Following another violent event involving Edna, Sam visits Jamie's father Alex to ask why he stopped letting Jamie visit. Alex reveals that the last time Jamie visited, the pair played hide-and-seek, however, Edna mistakenly locked Jamie in his hiding space and left him there for hours, forgetting she had even seen him that day. Back at the house, Kay follows Edna into the garden, where she finds her tearing pages from the family photo album and frantically eating them. When Kay tries to intervene, Edna bites her and storms off, attempting to bury the album in the soil, claiming it will "be safer there". Fearing something may come to get her, Edna softens and agrees to let Kay take care of her.

Sam discovers a hidden passageway to another part of the house. She enters but becomes lost as the corridor begins to loop. Disoriented and afraid, she resorts to screaming and banging on the walls. Edna's condition seems to have worsened again; she now glares at Kay mistrustfully, refusing to eat and wetting herself. Kay notices her mother's urine is stained black. As Edna bathes, she scratches what was once her bruise but is now rotting black flesh. The bathwater overflows and reacts with an electric heater, causing the house's power to go out. Sam travels deeper into the corridors. The ceilings slope lower, forcing her to crawl. She eventually escapes by knocking holes through the molded walls.

Kay finds Edna, much to her horror, picking at her rotting face with a knife. Kay and Sam flee into the passageway (hearing Edna approaching). Edna, now disfigured and physically contorted, crawls toward them. She attempts to pin down Sam before being beaten down by Kay. Wheezing, the decaying Edna gestures toward a post-it note on the floor, labelled "I AM LOVED", and smiles. Kay realises that the walls of the house are no longer rotting and returns to her corpse-like mother to carry her to bed. She helps Edna peel away the last remnants of her hair and flesh to reveal her final form, a withered rotting corpse (like the one in her nightmare). Kay and Sam then lay on the bed with Edna until she peacefully falls asleep.

The film ends with Sam noticing a very small black bruise on the nape of Kay's neck, resembling that of Edna's initial bruise, suggesting that in time Kay will suffer a similar fate as her mother.



In October 2018, Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin and Bella Heathcote joined the cast of the film with Natalie Erika James directing from a screenplay she co-wrote alongside Christian White. Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker served as producers on the film, while Anthony Russo and Joe Russo served as executive producers under their Nine Stories Productions and AGBO banners, respectively.[5]


The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 25 January 2020.[6] On 10 March, it was announced that IFC Midnight had acquired the North American distribution rights to the film.[7] In the United States, it was released on 3 July 2020 in drive-in theatres and received a wide release in theatres and video on demand on 10 July.[8][9]


Box office[edit]

Relic grossed $192,352 from 69 theaters in its opening weekend, finishing first among reported films.[10] It then made $195,674 from 128 theaters in its second weekend.[11]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 230 reviews, with an average score of 7.2/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Relic ratchets up its slowly building tension in an expertly crafted atmosphere of dread, adding up to an outstanding feature debut for director/co-writer Natalie Erika James."[12] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[13]

Justin Chang, speaking on Fresh Air, said: "There are no shocking twists or contrivances in store in Relic, and not a lot of gore, either. James excels at mining dread and tension from ordinary conversation, and she uses thriller conventions to get at something simple but shattering: the horror of watching a parent slowly deteriorate."[14]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Australian Writers' Guild 22 August 2019 Feature Film – Original Christian White and Natalie Erika James Nominated [15]
AACTA Awards 30 November 2020 Best Film Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw Nominated [17]
Best Direction Natalie Erika James Nominated
Best Screenplay Christian White and Natalie Erika James Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Bella Heathcote Nominated
Best Sound Robert Mackenzie, John Wilkinson, Steve Burgess, and Glenn Newnham Nominated
Best Hair and Makeup Angela Conte, Larry Van Duynhoven, and Bec Taylor Nominated
IndieWire Critics Poll 14 December 2020 Best First Feature Relic 5th place [20]
Florida Film Critics Circle 21 December 2020 Best First Film Nominated [21]
Critics' Choice Super Awards 10 January 2021 Best Horror Movie Nominated [22]
Gotham Awards 11 January 2021 Best Feature Nominated [23]
Audience Award Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Relic". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Relic (2020)". The Numbers. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  3. ^ "Relic (2020)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  4. ^ Troncoso, Guillermo (18 June 2020). "Acclaimed Horror Movie 'Relic' to Be Released in Australia as Stan Original". Screen Realm. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  5. ^ Hipes, Patrick (2 October 2018). "'Relic': Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin & Bella Heathcote To Star In Horror Pic; AGBO Boards To Co-Finance". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  6. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (4 December 2019). "Sundance Unveils Female-Powered Lineup Featuring Taylor Swift, Gloria Steinem, Abortion Road Trip Drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (10 March 2020). "IFC Midnight Lands Sundance & SXSW Thriller 'Relic'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  8. ^ Lindahl, Chris (17 June 2020). "Drive-In Theaters Get a One-Week Exclusive on IFC Films' 'Relic' July 4th Weekend". IndieWire. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  9. ^ "Relic". IFC Films. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  10. ^ "Weekend Domestic Chart for July 3, 2020". The Numbers. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  11. ^ "Domestic 2020 Weekend 28 – June 10-12". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Relic (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  13. ^ "Relic Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  14. ^ "Terrific New Thrillers 'Amulet' And 'Relic' Explore Terrors Lurking Within The Home". 2020-07-24. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  15. ^ "Writers of The Favourite, Hotel Mumbai, The Cry, Rosehaven and The Harp in the South among nominees for 52nd Annual AWGIE Awards". Australian Writers' Guild. 12 July 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  16. ^ "Full List of Nominees For The 52nd Annual AWGIE Awards" (PDF). Australian Writers' Guild. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  17. ^ "First Slate of Nominees Announced for the 2020 AACTA Awards Presented by Foxtel". Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  18. ^ "Final Nominees Announced for the 2020 AACTA Awards Presented by Foxtel". Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  19. ^ "Nominees and Winners". Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  20. ^ Blauvelt, Christian; Kohn, Eric (14 December 2020). "2020 Critics Poll: The Best Films and Performances According to Over 200 Critics from Around the World". IndieWire. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  21. ^ Neglia, Matt (21 December 2020). "The 2020 Florida Film Critics Circle (FFCC) Winners". Next Best Picture. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  22. ^ Hammond, Pete (19 November 2020). "'Palm Springs', 'Lovecraft Country' Top Movie And Series Nominations For Inaugural Critics Choice Super Awards; Netflix Lands 35 Nods". Deadline. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  23. ^ "Nominations Announced for 30th IFP Gotham Awards". Independent Filmmaker Project. 12 November 2020. Retrieved 6 December 2020.

External links[edit]