I would have to say that this is my favourite true 'Monster' movie. I have never read the book - although I am planning to once I get a spare minute - but from what I see here it should be one hell of a read!
From the outset, The Relic appears like any other monster movie. To be fair, I suppose it is, but cleverly-intergrated scientific facts help to give it a very real and believeable feel, without making the viewer feel inadequate when it comes to the genetics part. Although much of the jargon is probably a mess to any big scientist, here it works well and gives the whole movie a very sophisticated edge that too regularly monster thrillers decide to throw to the ground in favour of multiple deaths.
A perfect balance of character development and full-on horror is evident in The Relic. True, the first forty minutes or so are a little slow, and nothing of note really happens (with the exception of one jolting death). But it's a clever tool of the trade that director Hyams uses in order to create in-depth, likeable characters that the audience can eventually root for. Penelope Anne Miller, like so many of today's horror movie heroines, created an incredibly smart and instantly likeable woman who is sensible but fun - do I sense a touch of Laurie Strode in her? With her, Tom Sizemore (who looks like something of a cheap George Clooney replacement!) is great with his pithy and quick-as-a-whip remarks, and his superstition is a pretty cool aspect which adds depth and feeling to his role as well as the film.
It's surprising that The Relic has as much clever characterisation as it does, as it is set - excepting the opening sequence - entirely in the Chicago Natural History Museum. Not once do we leave the place in order to follow a character home, or to see them interact with their families. But it works shockingly well, and the Museum is a creepy and original setting for all the macabre goings-ons. John Debney's ominous and suggestive score helps to heighten the creep-factor, and something genuinely sinister can be found in The Relic.
Now to the special effects. Ever since CGI was invented in the early nineteen-nineties we have seen so many movies that have taken cheap options and had daft-looking, over-ambitious (not to mention totally unconvincing) effects. Not in The Relic, however. Obviously with a fairly large budget, all the special monster effects in the film are remarkable and help believeability in their authentic look. The creature itself (though resembling the Predator slightly at times) is an amazing and awe-inspiring fiend - not to mention downright scary. And the final twist of the movie is one that jumps at the audience in such a right-field manner that it makes an excellent final shock which leads to a breath-taking climax.
A clever, quick-witted monster-chiller with a great lead and some dazzling special effects. Definitely not one to be missed.