DVD Review: Dark Relic (15) / Director: Lorenzo Sena / Screenplay: Andy Briggs / Starring: James Frain, Clemency Burton-Hill, Tom Basden / Release Date: Out Now
Made for the SyFy channel back in 2010, Dark Relic seems to be a film that was made to cash in on the success, or lack thereof of Season of the Witch which stank up cinemas early last year. Funnily enough despite having probably not even the catering budget of that film, this is actually better.
We start in the crusades as Jerusalem has just been conquered and a group of knights, led by Sir Gregory (James Frain) discover a chunk of the cross that Jesus was crucified on and decide to take it back to Rome. After a shipwreck and one of their crew disembowelled in the woods, the group of men start to believe that the relic they carry might be cursed. Birds falling from the sky, swarms of locusts and demonically possessed monks all add to the feeling that something is amiss.
Dark Relic’s fatal flaw is that it lacks scope and sweep. I realise its low budget but at the start a few inserts of sweeping landscapes would have made all the difference. The knights walk along against blatantly false backgrounds and I half expected Terry Gilliam to show up with a couple of coconut shells. There is then a gratuitous flashback to a battle scene which unwisely decides to imitate Zack Snyder’s 300 and the result is just sad. Once the knights get to snowy, bleak Europe things improve somewhat with actual physical locations. From there on in Dark Relic is pure entertainment with all manner of badly rendered nastiness hurled at our heroes.
The effects may not be very convincing but Dark Relic moves like lightning and is never less than entertaining. In fact it’s so fast moving that it’s difficult to keep up with exactly what is going on. The characters and plot are never given time to breathe which is a shame considering that the acting from James Frain on down is actually pretty decent and nearly everyone is equipped with a convincing accent. Clearly this was made for TV with a running time of just over one hour so that the US SyFy channel could pad it out with 40 minutes of commercials. They seem to have some great bad ideas over there (Sharktopus!) but rarely seem to take them seriously, leading to all their output apart from the on-going series’ feeling really rushed.
Dark Relic isn’t a ground breaking piece of straight to DVD entertainment, but it has a certain entertainment value without ever being wholly satisfying. For a similar yet more thorough experience watch Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven and follow it up with Lamberto Bava’s Demons.
Special Features: TBC