relic movie 2020 ending explained

Confusing Ending of the Movie Relic Explained

Confusing Ending of the Movie Relic Explained
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Confusing Ending of the Movie Relic Explained. Slow burn over jump-scares for me any day. When a movie takes the time to invest in the characters. Invests in the situations and the relationships. Spends time investing in the idea. And all while casting doubt on them all at the same time? Yeah, thank you – I’ll have seconds of that, if you please. Relic is just such a movie. A movie that tells the story of a grandmother who has gone missing, and at the same time, casting doubt on that very same narrative simultaneously. It’s a movie about a family intruder, and not. And as things reveal themselves some more it then casts more doubt on the revelations. This isn’t a horror movie. It isn’t Friday the 13th, or Halloween. But rather a story about your grandmother, or mine, but only slightly turned inside out. If slow pans across dark mold stained wood, and the sound of flies buzzing incoherently in the distance is more your thing, then I can’t recommend Relic highly enough.  But if jump-scare horrors with cartoon’s wielding knives is more your thing, then this rodeo just won’t be for you.

But the ending of this movie is crazy confusing. Like WHAT?!?? THE?!?!? is GOING??!?!? ON?!?! So. we want to get to that ending, talk about a few theories that might be happening here, and then hear your theories about what you think might be happening at the end. But trust me, there is really only one good theory to explain this movie. Just one. Can’t wait to talk about it. Let’s get to it. If you haven’t seen the movie, you can check it out here. Oh, and by the way, this one was recommended by our very own valiant editor, CY. THANKS CY!! 

Quick Relic Movie Walkthrough

From here on out, spoilers abound. Buyer beware…

The movie opens with a grandmother, Edyna (played by Robyn Nevin), gone missing. As one would imagine, with an old woman lost out in the woods, the cops begin their search, but find absolutely nothing. And already, in the first few minutes, we can already see that this particular movie is setting itself up as an absolute atmospheric thriller. The biggest tell being the absolutely gorgeous sound design – sound that I might add, is best suited for fantastic over the ear, noise cancelling headphones. Normally I would recommend your big-screen TV for films watched in the house, but with this particular film, I’m recommending your laptop and a fantastic set of headphones. Every creak of the house is a thrill. Every thump in the walls is a terror. But why? There is nothing in this old woman’s house but too much clutter, and one too many closed up rooms.

Eventually Sam (played by Bella Heathcote – who you might know from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (I kid you not), and the Justin Timberlake film, In time ), Edyna’s granddaughter, in a moment that might mean nothing, or everything, finds an insidious mold like substance growing in one of her grandmother’s closets. A dark, creeping, terrible substance, that feels to be invading the house. In the evening – Kay (played by Emily Mortimer, who was great in Match Point) dreams of a cabin filled with mold, flies, and her bowed and bent mother who eventually morphs into a rotting corpse on the floor. And, as she is sleeping, we watch as someone else brushes away the mother’s hair from her face. Is that a man’s hand? Who is that? (Can you tell I’m writing this as I watch? And I’m a little freaked out currently? As an aside, I definitely hope you were able to go into this movie blind. It definitely keeps itself wrapped in 4 different genres all at once.)

The next day, grandmother just reappears, and is standing there in the kitchen as if nothing has happened. But we quickly learn that she has something of a creeping chest bruise… is that mold? There is some drama about Jaime (played by Chris Bunton), the teen from next door with Down Syndrome, who doesn’t come around anymore. Why? Well, it’s revealed that one time, Jaime played a game of hide and seek with Edyna, but Edyna locked him in a cupboard and soon forgot about him. When the father came and asked Edyna about his boy, she said she hadn’t seen him…but the father could clearly hear him screaming somewhere in the house. So yeah, that happened. Maybe Edyna just isn’t all there?

There are a number of tells as we progress deeper into the movie. A ring that was given, and then professed as stolen. Various new growing molds at a stain glass window that originally came from a cabin where punishments were doled out? An accident(?) with a candle carving that Edyna was working on, that caused her hands to bleed. A locked bathroom door, and a possible drowning, with an overflowing bathtub… Anything that can go wrong in this house seems to be rapidly happening. But the deeper into this story, the less I think there is someone else living in the walls, and the more I am starting to think that Grandma might just not be all there.

Eventually Sam stumbles upon a few closed rooms upstairs. And as she continues to push deeper and deeper into the attic, she starts to get turned around. Stairs, boxes, new doors, more hallways, and now she can’t seem to figure out how to get out of the upstairs, and back to lower portions of the house. Huh. Now, whenever a movie employs this trick, I always go back to the book, House of Leaves by Danielewski…or even The Annihilation movie (better yet, The Southern Reach Trilogy by VanderMeer), because this is just such a glorious metaphor. Take a house, expand it from the inside, and instantly, we have a visual representation of the mind, and all of the various horrors that might be found there. So, suddenly, this possible horror movie changed for me. When the house expanded, opened, and enveloped one of the characters, I began reevaluating everything I had assumed up to that point in the film. (I will admit, that I was tainted a bit by a random snippet of a comment on Amazon that I saw when I went to purchase the film – they had said something about a man hiding in the house…and so I very much believed that this was a really really slow boil horror film happening in front of me. And that the reveal would be that an intruder had been manipulating the house from minute one, all while living deep within the walls. Yeah. I know.) Where was I? Oh right, Sam’s stuck in the attic. Got it.

At the same time, downstairs, Gran pees on the floor, and her daughter Kay puts her in the tub. The water overflows the tub and shorts the power in the house…because what’s scarier than a house, with mold growing throughout it, with the lights out, while we have someone trapped in the attic. Anyway, while in the bathroom, left to her own devices, Edyna starts gouging her face with her paring knife. And the two struggle and fight, trying to stop Edyna from killing herself. Kay smashes her way through the wall, but hears her daughter in the attic, gets her, and they flee from the crawling and advancing terror that is their mother/grandmother. And when they escape through the hole that Sam created, Kay notices a note on the floor that says, “I am loved.” Sam sees her mother slow, but she is booking it out of the house. But Kay on the other hand realizes that her mother is loved, and stops.

Confusing Ending of the Movie Relic Explained

I’ve probably seen like 10 different people on Relic basically saying, “What the heck was with that Relic movie ending?” Or some variation thereof. So let’s talk about it, shall we? When Kay goes back, and gets her mother…she picks her up, and carries her upstairs.

Confusing Ending of the Movie Relic Explained

And, maybe the picture is too dark here – but you can see Edyna’s neck? Her skin is peeling back, and underneath is black, charred, skin. Or remnants of skin. What is that about? It’s as if the bruise on her chest has spread, deep under her skin, throughout her body. And Kay, what does she do? She begins peeling back the skin. Pulling her hair off. And when she’s done, she is left with what looks like a charred alien. WAIT, WHAT? This movie is worse to understand than that Under the Skin movie with Scarlett Johansson! What is going on here?

Confusing Ending of the Movie Relic Explained

After Kay kisses her blackened gollum mother, Sam walks in, apprehensive of the woman who almost killed them both. But soon the three of them lay down together in grandma’s bed, cuddling, and loving as much as possible in this horrible situation. Then, just before the movie ends, Sam notices that same black mold on her mother’s back. Cut to black, cue credits.

So, wait, what? First let me say to that person on Amazon that they thought an old man was living in the attic. No. That isn’t what happened. And no, the two women shouldn’t have beaten up that guy. Why? Because that was grandma. Why did grandma look like an old man? Well, because her skin was falling off her face, that’s why. Secondly, I’d argue there really is only one explanation to unpack this movie. And, if you’ve been reading along, it should be pretty abundantly clear, even if it wasn’t clear as you watched the movie.

The movie is 100% about dementia. (Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV. Anyone? Sorry, this isn’t a laughing matter.) It’s about Alzheimer’s, and the impact it has on families that are reeling to deal with it in their family. It’s as if houses swallow up their victims. It’s as if they are burnt from the inside out, until nothing of that person is left in the end. It’s about the daughters, and the granddaughters who are left to try and cope with the overwhelming trauma it causes. And it’s mainly about the love that can be the only possible way out of a situation like this.

Natalie Erika James, the film’s screenplay scribe and director, based this story on her own life. Apparently Natalie utilized her own family as the inspiration. It all sprang from a visit she made from Australia to Japan to visit her grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The trip had continuously been pushed back, and back, for one reason or another. And when she finally made the trip it was much too late. Her grandmother didn’t recognize her anymore.

“My grandmother had Alzheimer’s for a long time but on that trip, it was the first time she couldn’t remember who I was, I had all these feelings of intense guilt, for not going to see her more regularly.

“At the same time, she lived in this house that had always scared the crap out of me as a child. It was this traditional, older Japanese style house. Those two things then came together, this idea of expressing the experience of emotional heartbreak and trauma, of a loved ones decline, through the horror genre. That’s when the idea came to life.

“The idea of using three generations of women in the film was also linked to my experience,” Natalie continued. “It came from me watching my grandmother’s relationship with my mother shift over time. It gets to the stage where you have to start parenting your own parents.”

Which, when seen from that light, is truly truly heartbreaking. And yet a really clever flip of the script. Did you guys like the movie? Did you see it coming? Or was it a shock there at the end? Love to hear your thoughts on the movie.

Edited by: CY