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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Dutch
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer

The Relic

Polygram/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 105 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

“From the producer of Aliens, the director of Timecop and visual effects director of Jurassic Park.” Aliens and Jurassic Park in the same sentence – wow, this must be good. Hold on, wait a minute. Stan Winston’s real life visual effects are, as always from Winston, beautiful, but what about the CG (Computer Generated) images? This film was made after the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park which broke so many boundaries with Computer Generated Images (CGI) yet none of these techniques have been passed on to this film that was made four years after the 1993 prehistoric movie event. This is quite unfortunate as improved visual effects would have added so much to the atmosphere and quality of the film and the visual effects.

The story is fairly shallow, and whilst based around a good idea, is poorly executed. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller, previously seen in Kindergarten Cop), an evolutionary biologist at the natural history museum in Chicago becomes a key player in the solving of a mystery within the museum. A man’s body was found in a toilet, with its head removed and the brain missing vital components. Police lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta (Tom Sizemore) leads the team to the museum in search of the killer. But the question isn’t who is killing, rather what is killing. At the opening of the new ‘Superstitions’ exhibit at the museum, this killer rears its ugly head once more, and Green and D’Agosta discover that this creature has origins from South American mythology.

While it is a good idea with a good setting, the script is weak and poorly written, and Penelope Ann Miller is just annoying. There are no other words to describe her. She should stay away from the horror genre as she does nothing but overact, overreact and just doesn’t play the part of a scared woman. No one in their right mind would believe that she is scared by what she sees. However, Tom Sizemore does give the cast some credibility. Sizemore is strong, powerful and believable as the lieutenant and gives so much to the film, given its limited script.

  Video
Contract

The video transfer starts off looking very promising but falls in a heap for the second half of the film. It is presented in its original theatrical aspect of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced, and for the opening chapters, looks superb. The first chapter is incredibly dark and is lit by flickering fire. This is captured superbly on the video transfer with very solid blacks and minor film grain on the darker areas of the screen. Shadows are important for any horror film, and are rendered nicely for the opening of the film.

But then, (there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?) the transfer really does go down hill from there. For the latter half of the film, it appears as if an incredibly small palate has been used which really destroys the picture. For example a 45:20, there is a shot of the Mayor of Chicago whose face is made up of primarily two colours, with appalling shadow definitions and a total lack of realism and clarity. This is no where near good enough, and seems like such an obvious problem that should have and could have been fixed prior to production.

The layer change does give this transfer some credit, occurring at 61:12. It is very neat indeed, occurring in a quiet scene change in the film which makes it hard to spot.

  Audio
Contract

There is one audio track on this disc and that is a Dolby Digital 5.1 English soundtrack. The dialogue is entirely from the centre channel which does not distort or peak once, and is audible throughout the entire feature. The surround channels are used actively for effects and ambience and the subwoofer is used to carry the score. They are to good points to the soundtrack.

On the negative side is the heavy reliance on the subwoofer for general effects such as the creature’s footprints. But any subwoofer is a low frequency speaker, not a general effects speaker. This makes the footprints, for example, very shallow with only a faint rumble being heard as the effect comes only from that one channel. This over reliance on the subwoofer is really irritating as the clarity of many effects is lost due to the total effect being fed through to the sub. To fix this, the other speakers should have been given the higher frequency for the effects to give them depth, rather than relying totally on a low frequency, low clarity speaker.

For a horror film, the surround channels are not used as well as in other horror films on DVD such as Scream 3. The soundtrack in that film is superb with vocals and discreet and single effects coming from discreet speakers rather than a mix from the front and back of the soundstage. However, in The Relic, the effects are shared across the entire surround channels and partially with the front end of the soundstage.

  Extras
Contract

OK, now a question: can a theatrical trailer really be classified as an extra feature? Compared to today’s standards no, but this is all this disc has. But the menus do look nice.

  Overall  
Contract

The film gets more clichéd every time I watch it, and this transfer isn’t that thrilling either. The video starts out well, but fails for the second half, and the audio isn’t as good as it could have been. The extras…well what extras? If you are a fan of the horror genre, there is no real reason to stop you from getting it, but you might want to try the Pan & Scan Dolby Pro-Logic VHS tape, as you will probably enjoy the film much more.


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      And I quote...
    "The Relic should have stayed with the tribes in South America and definitely away from DVD."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nowa DS-8318
    • TV:
          TEAC 68cm CTV
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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