Dark Relic DVD Review
Written by Sharon Davies
DVD released by Koch Media
Directed by Lorenzo Sena
Written by Andy Briggs
2010, Region 2 (PAL), 88 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 9th April 2012
James Frain as Sir Gregory
Clemancy Burton-Hill and Rebecca
Samuel West as Friar George
As I write this I can almost imagine the pitch to Universal: “OK so it’s 1099AD and fighters from the Crusade have stumbled across a piece of the true cross, a relic so precious that they make it their mission to deliver it to Rome into the hands of the Holy Father. But this is no ordinary relic and is followed by evil forces hell bent on destroying the crusaders by any means. Can good truly defeat evil in this struggle between the Hell and man?”
Sounds good doesn’t it?
Therein lies the problem, this film actually could be pretty great, and considering it has been made for TV on a small budget it delivers entertaining elements, so what’s wrong with it? That’s the thing, there’s nothing WRONG with it per se, but so much lets it slide down into the shrug factor. You almost will it to pay off, but it misses the mark.
Opening the film as its leading man is James Frain (of The Tudors and True Blood fame) as Sir Gregory who saunters around as The Crusaders’ head honcho. Having battled the crusades with over 100 men he now leaves with a small handful, this has shaken his faith to the very core and he departs the battles as a man of doubt. With his men war weary the last thing they would hope for is another mission, but by being in the wrong place at the right time he is given a chest containing a huge chunk of the cross Christ was nailed to. He and Friar George can’t believe their luck and the confirmation of its validity starts as the cross drips with the blood of Christ himself.
This is the first time we are greeted by a bit of CGI. And it’s one of the biggest flaws of this whole production; the CGI really does look rather ‘special effects for dummies’ and consistently breaks the reality of the film. As the hanging corpse of a man drops pieces of gold to the camera to open the film’s title sequence, even the falling coins are really poorly done. This pretty much explains the sort of effects which smack you in the face throughout.
The group charters a ship on their way to Rome when the first evil shadows are cast upon them. All the drinking water on the ship has been turned to sea water and the food is now nothing but handfuls of maggots. But before you can say the words “Ship Ahoy” a storm slaughters all of the men on the boat except The Crusaders and they run aground.
As they head onto land looking for food and shelter they stumble across a battle, and throwing themselves in the mix they end up helping a small team defeat some local bandits who have slaughtered a Pilgrim village. All that remains are Turkish husband and wife duo, Hasan and Safa, their friend Alib and two Pilgrim villagers Rebecca and an unnamed friend.
Two noteworthy points to briefly mention here, firstly Safa looks like she could kick the ass of every man, woman and demon that steps in her path and I wouldn’t mess with her.
Second, its 1099AD, and I’m almost positive that curling wands hadn’t been made yet. However Rebecca’s hair looks like she has just stepped out of a Vidal Sassoon advert. Just saying.
Putting all religious differences aside, Hasan vows to fight for Sir Gregory as a debt of honour for saving his life and together they all set off again on their Grail trail. Crossing snowy lands and long paths the team is cut down one by one as evil throws many challenges their way, however:
Demons appearing out of thin air: Rebecca’s hair is still perfect.
Ravens falling from the sky onto the Crusaders in a snow storm: Rebecca’s hair is still perfect.
Wolves attack the camp, a plague of locusts swarm, Demons possess the team and continue to attack: Rebecca’s hair is STILL perfect.
What hairspray does she use and where do I get it? Villager-Mart? With all this perfect hair going on she, naturally, catches the eye of Sir Gregory, and as they march on you can see a glimmer of desire amongst the chainmail. What will happen? Will they get to Rome? Will the final battle flatten Rebecca’s hair? Well you will simply have to watch it to find out.
In terms of production (CGI aside) it’s all done pretty well for a low budget film: The costumes are pretty convincing, as are the sets (although I would like to state that I think the relic looks like a giant flake, and once that entered my head I couldn’t shift the thought). Even the acting isn’t half bad, although it’s just filler while waiting for the next weird green screen effect (although there is a real odd mix of accents going on including a strangely placed American monk.) Throughout the film the topic of which religion is the right one, and whether God and therefore this giant flake…sorry I mean relic is real or not is constantly evaluated and then shattered as the presence of evil unites them all in battle.
Now the thing about Dark Relic, is there isn’t actually an awful lot of horror in it, other than a glimpse of possession and a slight disemboweling, and I struggled to be satisfied against my 30% minimum scare/gore requirements. Even the demon itself is a little bit “meh” and to be honest, I reckon my Grandmother could probably take him.
They miss some major opportunities here:
A good beheading? You wont see it, it simply insinuates it.
A huge stab wound in battle? You may simply see a flash of Ketchup.
It just all looks rather fake although they all seem to know what they are doing in sword wielding terms.
In summary the film is average, I wasn’t bored, I didn’t find myself reaching for an app to play on, but it also didn’t inspire me too much either. After seeing Dark Relic I found a splinter of wood from my garden outside and didn’t immediately draw a red cross on my chest and book a ticket to Rome, and that’s the thing, there was no real inspiration from it. After watching Sir Gregory and his band of merry men and women I think I’ll cross off “Crusade” from my to-do list. It all looks a little too easy.
Video and Audio:
The audio throughout this gets some high points; the score is well placed and adds to the whole feeling of the film. There aren’t really any cheesy musical delights and it settles as a good TV movie. The video seems clear, and once again fitting to the piece. The colours taken from the performances and sets allow the harsh reality of a cross country crusade to seep in and the lighting during the darker scenes (mainly forest based) again show the directors eye for detail as he comfortably invites the viewer into the scene.