Something horribly wrong is happening at a historical museum in “The Relic,” and I don’t mean the ridiculous mark-up in the gift shop.
Cop Tom Sizemore and glamorous anthropologist Penelope Ann Miller are trying to figure out why museum patrons keep turning up with their heads cut off and their pituitary glands missing. Meanwhile, a mixed bag of supercilious officials - the pushy museum head (Linda Hunt), the mayor, the social-climbing biologist - are either: a. impeding the investigation, or b. preparing for their own dates with the Pituitary Fiend.
The movie is laughably bad, with cheesy monster effects, weak characterizations (the most recognizably “human” character is a police dog with a very sad face), underlit sets and inadvertently telling dialogue. “This is so stupid, this is so stupid,” chants the likable Miller, who gives her underwritten character a sly sense of humor. I also liked a cameo by Audra Lindley, playing a coroner who examines one of the decapitated corpses and cracks, “Weight: 180. Height: Five-foot-four. With his head, maybe six-foot-one.”
This sort of thing is done much better every week on “The X-Files,” on which they manage to give gruesome doings an underpinning of psychological interest. “The Relic” has an incredibly simple premise, but it takes forever to get it going and then the wrap-up drags out for an hour of bloodletting inside the gorgeous stone museum. “The Relic” was filmed at the Field Museum, incidentally, but museum officials insisted it be identified as the Museum of Natural History in the movie. You can understand why they wouldn’t let the moviemakers use their real name; the question is, why did Miller and Sizemore?
xxxx “THE RELIC” Locations: East Sprague, North Division and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Peter Hyams, starring Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore Running time: 2:07 Rating: R