There seems little in the way of originality to The Relic its principal spin on Alien is to set it in a museum instead of the darkened corridors of a spaceship. The first half of the film is tedious. Here the film seems to consist almost entirely of red herring shocks cats and derelicts jumping out at people, bodies falling, people playing pranks with medical skeletons or grabbing others ankles. The occasional red herring jump in a horror film can be effective it loosens the audience up for a greater onslaught to come but director Peter Hyams overdoes this so much that it becomes irritating. One sits back expecting a tiresomely mechanical shock show. However, during the second half, The Relic defies expectation. During the scenes with the monster stalking victims about in the catacombs of the museum, Peter Hyams turns about and succeeds in cultivating a more than reasonable degree of suspense. (Although, as with the contemporary likes of Se7en (1995) and tvs Millennium (1996-9), the scenes are filmed so darkly you get the impression that most American cities never stock anything stronger than 20 watt light bulbs).
Aiding the film greatly is one of the few genuinely original post-Alien monsters, courtesy of the Stan Winston workshop. Its appearances are breathtaking like the moment the giant lumbering monster first appears and then unexpectedly climbs up a wall; its mid-air leap to snatch a cop scaling down a rope from the skylight; or the climax with it running through the museum lit up in brilliant fire.
None of the film requires you to engage your brain there is much babble about evolution and DNA but it is only scientific doubletalk that has been grafted on to add a pseudo-verisimilitude. There is also an odd motif about superstition that runs through the film Tom Sizemores cop is highly superstitious, the museum has a superstition exhibit to unclear purpose. Nevertheless, The Relic is one of the more worthwhile Alien imitators.
The Relic was one of a number of genre films made by director Peter Hyams. Hyams first appeared with Capricorn One (1978) about a faked Mars landing; Outland (1981), an action film set on one of Jupiters moons; and 2010 (1984), the underrated sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). All of these are intelligent and original sf films. During this time, Hyams also produced the quirkily appealing Universal monster homage The Monster Squad (1987). Hyams left the genre alone for nearly a decade before returning with a much more routine series of genre offerings, where he has clearly only signed on as a director-for-hire. These include: Stay Tuned (1992), a comedy where Hell is portrayed as parodies of various tv shows; the reasonable Jean-Claude Van Damme time-travel/action film Timecop (1994); the Arnold Schwarzenegger millennial Devil Returns action film End of Days (1999); and the disastrous Ray Bradbury adaptation A Sound of Thunder (2005) concerning dinosaurs and time-travel. The Relic was also produced by Gale Ann Hurd, the former wife and producer for James Cameron on films such as The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986) and The Abyss (1989).
(Nominee for Best Makeup Effects at this sites Best of 1997 Awards).