I’m still trying to work out why the BBC are listed as the production company for The Relic, a standard but enjoyable monster movie currently showing on the corporation’s iPlayer app. Did Lord Reith hope that licence-payers would one-day fund B-movies about South American god-monsters terrorizing attendees at the opening of a Chicago History Museum exhibition about Superstition? No matter; this deeply silly and perfectly enjoyable no-brainer resurfaces to demonstrate that you can remake Alien on a fairly regular basis with a bit of lens flare and the usual fusion of CGI and physical effects.
Based on a book of the same title by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, The Relic at least has a female lead, presumably thanks to producer Gale Anne Hurd; a spirited Penelope Ann Miller is evolutionary biologist Margo Green, who discovers that a cargo ship that somehow floats from South America to Lake Michigan without a crew is hiding a rapidly evolving creature which contains vestiges of her colleague John Whitney (Lewis Van Bergen). With a big opening on the cards as a way of sucking cash out of the museum’s backers, Green teams up with detective Vincent D’Agosta (Tom Sizemore) to foul the predatory plans of the chimera/hybrid that stalks the exhibition spaces.
Director Peter Hyams also functions as his own director of photography, and never saw a flashy light source he didn’t like. Much derided, Hyams has actually made plenty of passable movies, including Busting, Capricorn One, Running Scared, Narrow Margin and of course, Sudden Death. With a very 1997 cast and the same kind of give-‘em-more attitude of the same year’s Deep Rising, he fashions a perfunctory but entertaining run through of the usual clichés; with good location work inside the museum, and the gory kills required.
The Relic is a time-passer for sure, but stands up better than most genre efforts by dint of a decent budget and cast; James Whitmore tops off a storied career as a helpful expert, and yes, that’s The Breakfast Club’s janitor John Kapelos as a ill-fated security guy. Everyone gets gobbled up pretty fast once the monster stops sneaking around toilet cubicles and ramps up its ideas to steal the show at the big social event. It’s all good fun, it’s utterly meaningless, and it’s what the British Broadcasting Corporation seems to feel is a good use for our licence fee; there’s certainly worse things they’ve done with it.