Do yourself a favor: pick up a copy of Alien
, Ridley Scott's brilliant sci-fi/horror masterpiece, instead of wasting your time on The Relic
. This patent rip-off of just about every other worthy horror and/or disaster flick certainly looks good in the packaging: a sturdy cast led by Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore, and Oscar-winner Linda Hunt; a reliable director (Peter Hyams); and a creepy enough setting--Chicago's Museum of Natural History, where an anticipated exhibition about tribal artifacts called "Superstition" is about to debut. OK. So far, so good. But some of the pieces scheduled for show have crossed customs even though the freighter that has hauled them north is found adrift and empty--its crew the victims of a mysterious creature that is soon on the rampage in the museum.
The Relic relies on huge leaps of faith to engage the viewer, and finally offers nothing to elevate what could have been good fun--poking here and there at several different movie genres--to a higher level . Ultimately, the film suffers most from its own self-consciousness--it knows it's a carbon copy of better predecessors, and its awkwardness is apparent. The otherwise glossy production is so dimly lit that it's a struggle to tell what's going on, and everything in this tepid formula piece about genetic mutation gone awry is further marred by cheesy special effects. It's almost as if the movie is trying to run away from itself and hide. Try as they may, the cast is saddled with dull, wishy-washy characters who are predictably doomed or saved, depending on their place in the food chain. While the trick in any good sci-fi film is to make the monster as smart--or smarter--than its pursuers, The Relic relegates its mutated horror to less than brainy turf and the war between good and evil is never much of a war at all--just a noisy, bloody, borrowed mess. --Paula Nechak