An anthropologist from the Chicago Museum of Natural History has sent a few crates back to the museum from South America ahead of his return. He's been studying ancient civilizations there. After being involved in one of their rituals, the anthropologist isn't quite sure sending those crates was a good idea. He knows something we don't, but we soon find out.
The crates contain some weird leaves and a beat up old relic. I'm not so sure why 'The Relic,' is actually called 'The Relic' (aside from the fact that it was adapted from a book of the same name). It seems a strange title for a movie that has little to nothing to do with the actual object featured. During the duration of the film, the relic in question is continuously shown in ominous lighting, being meticulously restored by one of the museum's employees. The soundtrack screeches, and thumps whenever it appears on screen, as though it's contains something so amazingly evil they dare not tell us what that is.
Lt. D'Agosta (Tom Sizemore, 'Saving Private Ryan') is called in to investigate when everyone on the ship charged with transporting the relic is mysteriously murdered, their heads ripped off and parts of their brains extracted.
Lt. D'Agosta is the classic troubled cop protagonist/cliche. He's going through a bitter divorce. He's withdrawn from his colleagues. Always seems to work alone, while piecing everything together. Oh, and he's got his trusty lucky bullet. Lt. D'Agosta soon finds a friend in Dr. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller), the resident anthropologist.
When a security guard at the museum is found to have suffered the same decapitation, his brain missing the identical parts, things start getting a little more suspicious. We know from the massive drooling teeth on the cover that we're in for a monster movie, so when the cops are chasing down leads that suggest an actual person might have done all these things, we bide our time and hope that when the creature reveals itself it's worth our while.
We soon learn that the creature may have traveled all the way to the museum via underground tunnels from the docks. The question is why? Wouldn't it be far more suitable for a creature who needs to feed on human brains to just ransack the city? The movie offers a bit of an explanation for this, but it doesn't hold up, and the connection to the relic? Well, you'll see... Just don't hold your breath for much correlation.
So, with a middling plot and overwrought, under-thought characters, is the monster parts worth it? Sure. That's not a definite "yes" from me, but some viewers may have fun watching the monster, which is part reptile, part insect, and part... well, that would be a spoiler... run around the museum decapitating patrons. The giant creature suffers from the 'Jurassic Park' T-Rex syndrome. You know, when a lumbering, growling, shrieking animal always announces its presence, except when it's convenient for it appear silently out of thin air. The creature here moves around quite loudly at times, and quite stealthily at others. Even when gigantic metal security doors are dropped all around the museum, the creature seems to navigate the place with ease, decapitating everyone who isn't truly integral to the plot.
'The Relic' is silly and misnamed, but I guess 'The Monster' just sounds a little too generic or didn't justify the purchase of the book's screen rights. The reveal of the monster on the other hand is fun, and a testament to the innovation of special effects wiz Stan Winston. 'The Relic' can be enjoyed on a corny level, but that's it. The suspense isn't even all that noteworthy. It even stoops to the old "cat behind the corner" trick, but it's not so bad that you'll be angry you watched it. My only question is, why buy it on Blu-ray when this is one of those movies you can see on TV during a lazy Saturday afternoon?
'The Relic's 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is something that you would expect from a 1997 catalog title. Almost all of the film takes place either at night, in dimly lit rooms, or darkened corridors. That means the most important part of this transfer should be the black levels and whether the delineation is up to par. If those fail, the transfer as a whole fails too.
At times the blacks are deep, but those moments are few and far between. For most of the time you feel like you're watching the film through some kind of light haze which turns blacks a shade lighter and really kills a lot of the revealing detail in the delineation. Fine detail is frequently lost. Things are better during the daylight scenes, but during the dark scenes the haze takes its toll. The problems don't stop there, the transfer is absolutely littered with source noise, including a terribly noticeable scratch on the film that flickers in the fire in the beginning scene. While artifacts such as blocking and aliasing don't pop up, this source noise is frustrating, and how something like that huge scratch slid by is pretty annoying.
This transfer is tolerable at its best, and horrible at its worst.
Well, I'm proud to announce that the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track provides much more of a wallop than the semi-ugly video transfer does. First of all, I was completely surprised when I flipped the Blu-ray case over and saw that this film was given the 7.1 treatment. Released in 1997, I was thinking that the 7.1 mix would sound extremely forced and unnatural, but that's not at all true. It's a fun, energetic mix that keeps you engaged and engulfed in the action. When people have conversations in the open marbled hallways of the museum, the track is given a very natural echoing sound that makes you feel like you're there in the museum yourself. LFE is cranked up during the escapades of the monster. The bass is exciting, without being overwhelming. Close up, soft conversations between characters can be a tad hard to hear sometimes, and I found myself adjusting, ever so slightly, the center volume control so I could hear Sizemore's overly dramatic whispers. This is a very appealing audio presentation for a film this old. I felt engulfed in the frightening atmosphere of a museum under siege from an unseen gargantuan monster. It's quite fun, and will provide you with a couple jumps, not so much of the scariness but from the sheer volume dispelled during the jump scare moments. This is a catalog title that you can be proud to add to your collection if you're really into a good audio presentation.
'The Relic' is a generic monster movie that spends way too much time with its characters thinking it's not actually a monster movie. By the time we're ready to see the monster we might be too bored to care, but Stan Winston's visual effects are always a wonder to look at even though they may be over a decade old. The audio is fantastic for a catalog release, it would've just been nice to have the video meet the same expectations. Along with the extremely slim helping of extras, I'm giving this a rental recommendation for the curious. Chances are you'll forget it a few minutes after you watched it anyway.