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The Relic Review

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A mysterious box of leaves arrives at a Chicago museum of natural history. Big brain Miller is poring over her DNA, bureaucrat Hunt hopes her new superstition exhibit will haul in the customers, and harassed cop Sizemore wants to know what ate the hypothalamus out of the guard found ripped apart in the men's room

★★★★★

All that Jurassic Parkery brings CGI creatures out into the light so you can "ooh" and "ahh" at the amazing tech that brings them to life, but if a beastie is going to be really scary it needs to be kept snarling in the shadows. Also, it's hard to keep a family audience - and a 15 certificate - if characters keep tripping over severed heads. So it's a minor pleasure to have an expensive B-movie like The Relic, in which the sort of premise - monster runs rampage in a museum - that usually gets relegated to DTV schlock is given the treatment necessary to wow them in the stalls.

After an initially incomprehensible prologue in South America - all is explained, sort of - when a ship shows up in Chicago, its bilges stuffed with decapitated crew members, and a mysterious box of leaves arrives at a Chicago museum of natural history. Big brain Miller is poring over her DNA, bureaucrat Hunt hopes her new superstition exhibit will haul in the customers, and harassed cop Sizemore wants to know what ate the hypothalamus out of the guard found ripped apart in the men's room.

On the night the museum is packed with VIPs for the opening of the exhibit, Miller finally figures out what the leaves - which have turned a beetle into a hamburger-sized monster - have to do with the lizard-lion-rhino-insect-ugly creature snacking down on the museum's patrons and the regulation dumb SWAT team. Still in her black cocktail dress but sensibly ditching the high heels, she whips up a Blue Peter-style monster-destroying weapon, and faces the "Kothoga" in the requisite blazing finale.

Unpretentiously and likeable Peter Hyams is one of the few hacks still working at this budget level, and he relishes the chance to make an audience jump, not only with some monster effects and a pile of mutilated corpses but also with some subtleties of editing and lighting, plus one of the loudest jump-out-of-your-seat soundtracks in a recent memory. The writing is crammed full of cliche and stereotypical anti-sterotyping and the acting is uneven but this is disposable fun for the nasty-minded.

Disposable fun for the nasty-minded.