Currently streaming on Stan, the new horror movie Relic sees a woman (Emily Mortimer) and her adult daughter (Bella Heathcote) contend with the family matriarch’s (Robyn Neville) worsening dementia, only for events in the old woman’s decrepit house to take a turn for the supernatural. Honestly, it’s a great movie to go into cold, so check it out now and then come back here for a chat with Melbourne-based writer and director Natalie Erika James, who makes her feature debut with the film.
What was the inspiration for the film? What was the genesis of Relic?
It really came from a personal place. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s herself for quite some time before she passed. I can tell you about the trip that I took to Japan to go see her. This particular trip was quite a notable one for me, because it was the first time she couldn’t remember who I was. It was quite heartbreaking and really jarring when someone who only looked at you with love and affection starts looking at you like you’re a stranger. She also lived in this quite scary traditional Japanese house. It always really freaked me out as a kid. So, I think the combination of those two things is really the starting point for the film.
You’re coming from a background of music videos, a lot of really well-regarded short films and TV commercials. What was the process like transitioning from this sort of shorter form stuff to a full feature?
Yeah, it was certainly a leap. The sheer endurance of it is always a transition because the longest I’ve been on set prior to Relic was probably about ten days in a row, whereas this was six weeks. And it’s not only the shooting, but the post-production. I think we did about seven to nine months on it. It’s a really long time to be staring at the same material. You have to constantly find inspiration in the process because you are really just looking at the same hour and a half over and over. I probably watched it about 300 times.
I also think when you’re doing smaller projects, the creative decisions kind of end with you, whereas sometimes when you’re on a larger project you have more producers, more investors, more notes, so it can be a step up, but it can be challenging to try.