Dark Relic (2010)

Dark RelicReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring James Frain, Clemency Burton-Hill, Thomas Basden, Alyy Khan, Marija Karan

Directed by Lorenzo Sena

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Dark Relic is its title. Syfy held an online contest to come up with a title for this at the time nameless flick. All contestants had to go on was some preliminary artwork depicting a knight and a demon and the following synopsis:

1099 A.D.: A battle-weary knight leads his men home from the Holy Land after years of fighting. But the supposedly holy relic he’s carrying bears a terrible curse, and now a murderous demon has been unleashed. It’s up to Sir Gregory and some unlikely allies to battle this unholy scourge and stop the spread of an unspeakable evil.

The winner was a man from Kentucky. His prize was an “amateur filmmaking kit” (laptop, video camera, editing equipment) valued at around $5,000. His winning entry was Dark Relic.

Did Syfy really need to hold a contest just to come up with the title Dark Relic?

The last time Syfy had a contest to name one of its original movies a few years back, it was for a giant squid flick, and the winning title was Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep. At the time I wondered why the network needed a contest just to end up with a title that sounded exactly like something Syfy movie execs should have been able to come up with on their own with little thought put into it. Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep sounds highly imaginative compared to Dark Relic. Am I alone in thinking that if you’re going to hold a contest to name a movie, the winning entry should have a semblance of imagination to it? Without even intending to do so, I inspired a filmmaker to change the title of his movie from the generic and repeatedly used Judgment Day to Quantum Apocalypse, a title with a distinctive ring to it.

Dark Relic does rise above many a Syfy original thanks to some solid acting, particularly James Frain of Showtime’s “The Tudors” as world-weary Crusader Sir Gregory, given the assignment of transporting what is proclaimed to be a piece of the original cross Jesus was crucified on found from the Holy Land back to the Holy Father in Rome. The problem for Sir Gregory and his accompanying Crusaders returning with him is that this holy relic seems to be a magnet for unholy forces. Shipwrecks, ravenous wolves, insect swarms, demonic possession, boulder avalanches, and evil incarnate in the form of a fire-breathing, pestilence death touch-possessing gargoyle that resembles the Balrog from Lord of the Rings with wings befall the Crusaders.

Assistance comes in the form of a Muslim warrior and his wife that join them right as their supernatural trouble begins. Maybe it’s because I was always an A-student in ancient history class, but I had a hard time to believing that the Christians and the Muslims would get along as smoothly as they do regardless of how battle-weary they may all be. Even if he and Sir Gregory shared mutual respect, there really should have been more animosity with the others considering they’ve all just spent the past few years slaughtering each other based solely on religious ideals.

One of the knights in the group also turns out to be a woman, and not just any woman – an atheist. She’s lost her faith after taking part in this bloody Crusade, and that opens up the floor for Christian, Muslim, and atheist to discuss matters of faith. While it’s nice that the screenwriter clearly tries to have more going on in the film’s head than the usual monstrous adventuring, their theological discussions are no more complex or profound than that which I heard in Sunday school growing up.

At least Dark Relic tries, unlike some lazier Syfy efforts of late. A spirited skirmish with demonically possessed, ceiling-crawling monks and a silly attempt to pull off some 300 style slow-motion swordplay aside, this one still lacks the necessary thrills and chills and suffers from a typical array of wildly uneven visual effects work. Dark Relic is a better film than its generic title implies. Just not as good as it wanted to be or could have been.

2 1/2 out of 5

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  • Gus Bjork

    I agree on all points. The little 300 sequence was silly…cool to see a knight slice and dice but still silly. It was a change of pace for Syfy seeing a real attempt at an intelligent enough script. It was moody, some real nice looking scenes and I appreciated that the Christian characters weren’t played like cartoons. The Brother wasn’t a religious nut job, rather someone with sincere beliefs and for some reason I liked that they kept the prayers in Latin. I suspect the script writer needed to do something with his medievel studies Master Degree.

    I could suspend disbelief that the Christians and Muslims (Turks…they were Turks right?) could put aside their differences. I thought it was nice and for a few of the main character deaths I got the ‘That guy? Shoot, I liked that guy!’ reaction and that doesn’t happen all that often with these types of films.

    Downside was that it was really really slow at times and it lost my attention at a few points. Still, Syfy is going in the right direction if they go for this level and I can almost…almost…forgive them for Dino-Shark.