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The Relic

out of 4 Movie Review: The Relic

Starring: Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore
Director: Peter Hyams
Rated: R
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: January 1997
Genres: Horror, Suspense

*Also starring: Linda Hunt, James Whitmore, Clayton Rohner, Audra Lindley, John Kapelos, Diane Robin, Constance Towers, Robert Lesser

Review by MrBrown
0 stars out of 4

The year is barely a week old, and there is already a candidate for the worst of 1997--The Relic, a would-be chiller that's more successful at making the audience laugh than scream.

In this ridiculous film from uberhack Peter Hyams (whose last two pictures were dreadful Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicles), a creature that feeds on the hypothalamuses (hypothalamii?) of humans and animals goes on a killing spree in a Chicago museum. How did this creature come into existence, and why does it feed on hormones? The "scientific" explanation cooked up by the four--yes, four--credited screenwriters (Amy Holden Jones, John Raffo, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver) takes "suspension of disbelief" to new heights, even by monster movie standards. But as cockamamie as the science is in the film, it isn't quite as hard to swallow as the casting of the clueless Penelope Ann Miller as a brilliant molecular biologist who specializes in evolutionary genetics. Miller acts as if she wants an Oscar nomination, turning every scene that requires the slightest display of emotion into an overblown Oscar clip, complete with piercing wails and glycerine tears. Give it up, Penelope--it's a _monster_movie_. On the flip side, Tom Sizemore just phones in his performance as a police lieutenant, but his role is so thankless that it's hard to imagine it being played any more effectively.

It's quite funny to see a film indulge, with the straightest of faces, in all those cheesy horror movie cliches that Wes Craven lampooned so well (and so recently) in Scream. For example, in one early scene, a museum security guard goes into a bathroom stall late at night. OK, we all know what's coming, but as if we didn't need any more confirmation, he pulls out a joint and starts puffing away. Everyone knows what happens to people who do drugs in a scary movie. And later, Miller frantically runs out of a museum exhibit after she hears some suspicious heavy breathing. Does she make a beeline for the front door? Of course not--she runs into the ladies room and cowers in a stall. With all the cliches, it is only fitting the film's climax offers what is perhaps the most overused one in recent film: that of someone outrunning a fireball.

If The Relic is truly "the next evolution in terror" as the poster states, then the horror film--and humanity--is in even worse shape than we thought.

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