The Relic (1997)

The one really nice thing about cutting the cable is we have a LOT more time to watch movies on Amazon, Netflix, and AcornTV. We have Amazon Prime, so are able to watch a lot for free and we take advantage of that as much as possible.

 Last night we watched The Relic with Tom Sizemore and Penelope Ann Miller, based on the book by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I have read all the Agent Pendergast novels, of which The Relic is the first in the series, so I had some serious doubts about a movie adaptation that didn't have Aloysius Pendergast as the main character. Not too mention all the interactions between various characters along with getting to know Agent Pendergast. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did with the basic story line.

 They rolled the character of Pendergast in with that of Lt. Vincent D'Agosta, but kept D'Agosta pretty much as is and just gave him most of Pendergasts' lines when needed. Tom Sizemore did a pretty good job at playing D'Agosta, pretty close to how I imagined him from reading the books.

I didn't quite care for the actress who played Margo Green. Penelope Ann Miller is a fair actress, but didn't come close enough to the character for my tastes. Most likely the script writers just didn't quite get the character as she is in the book as I like her.

 The setting has been changed from New York to Chicago, but that isn't a problem as they both have very similar natural history museums where quite of the movie takes place. A lot of the plots between assorted characters have been dropped to focus on the main story line, which is about what is killing people and is now creeping thru the Chicago Museum of Natural History.

While a lot of monster/horror movies are right up front about the creature, The Relic makes very good use of shadows, hints and mood to keep you wondering about what it is. The amount of gore and blood is not over done and most of the usual "surprises" were very well done.

The movie starts out with an intense scene around a camp fire in South America with an anthropologist who looks to be getting more than he's bargained for when he went in search of ancient South America gods.

We then move to a port where he has several crates of artifacts that he is shipping back to Chicago, but is extremely anxious to get them back. He sneaks aboard the ship to find them, but comes up empty handed.

The movie then travels to Chicago where we meet Lt D'Agosta who is investigating a ship that had sailed up from South America that was found drifting out on the Great Lake and the crew missing. Needless to say, he and his partner find out where they went.

In the meantime we move to the museum, where we meet Dr Margo Green, who is a research scientist in need of a grant, or else her project comes to an end. She is head to head in competition with another researcher who is anxious to get the grant she needs.

She goes into the office of Dr Whitney, our anthropologist from the beginning of the movie and is kind of caught in the act of peeking into the crates he had sent from South America, but had been put on another ship. Inside of one she finds it full of nothing but leaves with what look like eggs of some sort on them. Wondering why there was nothing else, they unpack the 2nd crate and send the artifacts to be cataloged and cleaned up. The leave and crates are considered contaminated and sent to be incinerated. Dr Green grabs a few leaves with the eggs as she is very intrigued with what they could be.

From that point things get more interesting, bloody and quite tense (I did mention that they made very good use of shadows, hints and mood). Lt D'Agosta arrives at the museum to investigate the gruesome murder of a security guard, while Dr Green starts DNA testing on the eggs and a beetle with a desire to attack her. Thank goodness for dense science books!

All the while the museum is gearing up to host a big gala for the donors with some of the artifacts Dr Whitney has sent back along with other exhibits on superstitions and ancient gods. Honored guests will be the mayor and his wife, along with the benefactors who age giving out the grant that Dr Green is anxious to get.

(Okay, I am sure we all see a predictable plot point here, but is is a good one.)

D'Agosta is not going to let the gala go on until they catch the killer, so when they find who they think they did it, he still isn't convinced. There have been a number a nagging little details about the whole thing that he can't quite put his finger on. Like the fact the killer seems to have a particular fondness for a certain part of the human brain. Needless to say, he wants to postpone the gala, but he is overridden by the mayor.

(Do these people EVER watch or read horror movies/novels! LISTEN to the hero when they say there is something not right!)

So, the gala goes ahead that night as planned. D'Agosta is definitely convinced they didn't get their guy and puts his people into place. The museum security guy thinks D'Agosta is wrong, but puts his own measures into place. The prestigious guests arrive.......

I'm going to leave it right there. By this point I noticed that my hubby was watching the movie and he isn't a fan of the genre. I'm ready to crawl up to the ceiling I am getting that into the movie (I repeat, shadows, hints, even bigger hints and mood setting) is making for serious edge of the seat viewing. At this point the action becomes a roller coaster and one should make sure their seat belt is fastened.

I gave the movie a solid 8 out of 10 on the IMDb. There is quite a bit in regards to science and technology to quibble about. DNA sequencing takes a a lot more time than they did in the movie, but for the sake of the movie and action I forgive them taking liberties like that. Think about it, if horror movies actually went the pace of real life, they would be dead boring.

If you think about this movie without thinking about the books it is based on, it is a very good movie. A solid, entertaining monster movie that delivers what it promises at the end.

Do I wish they had included Agent Pendergast, yes, but then again, that character is so complex and deep that a 2 hour movie simply would not do him justice. With the rise of original series and movies on Netflix and Amazon it would be nice if someone took the books and made them into a series. With the improved special effects and a lot of talented production companies out there I would bet they would be a great hit (look at how well Penny Dreadful has been doing).

Just have to figure out who could possibly play Aloysius Xingu Leng Pendergast and do him justice as he needs to be written true to the books.