The Relic

the-relicI have a soft spot for movies with credit listings for “Kothoga operators,” so I’m tempted to go easier on The Relic than I probably should. “Kothoga” — which I think is African for “cheesy horror flick” — is the name of The Relic‘s gigantic whatsit of a monster, a mutated stew of parts from a beetle, a gekko, a tiger, and a human being. There are other animals in the mix, but what discriminating viewers need to know is that it rips heads off real good.

The Relic sounds like a classic beer-and-pizza movie — a lowbrow monster mash with high-tech gloss. Regular readers know I’m a pushover for this stuff. So it pains me to confess that, aside from the spectacularly ugly Kothoga (a creation of monster-making genius Stan Winston), the movie isn’t much good. If you’re predisposed to like this movie, you’ve seen all the films it rips off (and rips off without irony, too).

The overly top-heavy plot is just an excuse to set the beast loose on a bunch of stupid people. The Chicago Museum of Natural History has received some crates with exotic bacteria tucked inside. The bacteria mutate into the Kothoga (I love writing that), which goes on a rampage during the museum’s black-tie exhibit of superstition-related artifacts. Many stupid people in tuxedoes and gowns are relieved of their heads.

Tom Sizemore, as the superstitious cop D’Agosta (whose name everybody mispronounces), is set up as the hero, but he doesn’t end up doing much. If you saw him for the first time in The Relic, you’d never know what an intriguing actor he can be — in Natural Born Killers, for instance, or Strange Days. The real hero is Penelope Ann Miller as the evolutionary biologist Margo Green, who figures out a way to defeat the Kothoga. As in her other movies, Miller’s biggest worry is not the monster so much as the tight dress she’s always on the verge of falling out of. Put some clothes on this woman.

The Relic was directed by Peter Hyams, a competent journeyman taking a break from his Van Damme movies. Hyams is good at building dumb tension — knee-jerk suspense you can’t help responding to, even though you know exactly what’s coming and when. Problem is, most of this stuff was perfected in the Alien series and the first Predator, and you can only watch so many decapitations before you start wishing that the Kothoga (or Hyams) were more inventive.

The movie’s problems may originate in the hefty source novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I haven’t read it, but here are some blurbs from the paperback cover: “Jaws takes Manhattan.” “What might happen if a creature from Jurassic Park came to New York City.” (Obviously Hyams relocated the story to the Windy City.) “Part Jaws, part Poseidon Adventure.” See the pattern? If even the book was hyped in this crude Hollywood-pitch language, how could the movie be anything but derivative?

You may wonder why The Relic is set in a prestigious (fictional) museum. Simple, really. If it were set anywhere else, this movie about Kothoga the head-hunting monster just wouldn’t be classy.

Explore posts in the same categories: adaptation, horror

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