A very small, insignificant scene at the beginning of "The Relic"says a lot about it. A guy runs aboard a cargo ship and asks where his crates bound for Chicago are going. Then the film cuts to the distinctive Chicago skyline. Then on the screen flash the words "Chicago, Illinois." Say -- no shit? Don't laugh. Go see this film and you'll be leading the audience in chants of "no shit?"
Like every other movie that takes place in a museum or university, "The Relic" awards doctorates like they were postage stamps. Dr. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller) has hers in evolutionary biology. Now I don't want to imply that Penelope Ann Miller looks stupid, but I was less shocked by the monster that provides the film's terror than I was when people managed to walk by Penelope without hanging their coats off the top of her head.
As Lt. Vincent D'Agosta (Tom Sizemore) works with Dr. Green to find the creature roaming the museum and figure out its mystery, groups of rich people and politicians are gathering in the museum for a gala. When the monster gets loose they trample each other in a fight to get to the exits. When they fail to escape, many of them have their hypothalamuses eaten, which is the beast's calling card. In fact, had there been more trampling and more gutted rich people, this movie could nearly have been passable.
Turns out the beast -- some bizarre species hybrid that makes its way from Brazil to the museum aboard a shipping crate -- breathes with a very distinctive wheezing sound. Thus, every time somebody ends up in a dark, wet place in the museum, they hear the wheezing and know they're about to have their hypothalamus ripped out of their head and slurped down like a cocktail shrimp. Had director Peter ("Sudden Death") Hyams been just the least bit creative, he could have let his monster loose at an asthmatics convention and created enough false tension to depopulate Florida.
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