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By Nick Schager
The feature debut of Japanese-Australian filmmaker Natalie Erika James, who co-wrote the script with Christian White, Relic (premiering at drive-in theaters on July 3, and on VOD July 10) concerns three generations of women in an Australian family who are brought together by a puzzling crisis. Matriarch Edna (Robyn Nevin) has gone missing from her long-time rural home. Upon being notified by phone of this strange occurrence, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) arrive to figure out what’s taken place. What they discover is an abandoned house full of boxes stuffed with pictures and knickknacks, and Post-it Notes plastered about, reminding Edna to “Take Pills” (on her nightstand) and “Turn Off Tap” (at her tub).
That latter message holds particular significance because Relic’s ominous prologue depicts Edna standing, naked, in front of pulsating Christmas tree lights as water flows over the edge of her bathtub, down the hallway and staircase, and into the living room. Something is clearly not right with Edna, and as we swiftly learn, Kay knows it, since her mom informed her—during their last phone call—that she thought someone was coming into the house, turning on the lights, leaving doors open, and shifting the position of her armchair. To Kay, such comments seemed like the ramblings of a woman slowly losing her marbles. Yet the fact that said armchair has been strangely repositioned—and that her mom is nowhere to be found—nonetheless worries her. So too do the dreams she begins having about an old cabin in the woods where a blackened corpse-like figure sits on the edge of a bed, the surrounding floor (and ceiling) splattered with inky stains.
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