Blood Relic (2005)

Starring Billy Drago, Jennifer Lauren Grant, Joshua Park, and Debbie Rochon

Directed by J. Christian Ingvordsen

Hey, everybody, I got a great idea. Who’s up for a party tonight? We’ll sneak back into our place of business after hours. Yeah, you know, the place where a bunch of brutal murders occurred years ago. Dude, we could hold a séance. Wouldn’t that be cool? Then we’ll drink some beers, play some strip poker, split up into couples, and wander off to have sex. Sounds like a plan, huh? Yeah, this is gonna rock! I just hope some masked homicidal maniac doesn’t show up and starting brutally butchering us one at a time. Now that would really suck! Woooo! Party!

Blood Relic is almost admirable for being such an unapologetically clichéd slasher movie. The first two-thirds of the film unfold in much the same manner as every other Reagan Era slasher flick did. You got the standard group of pretty young faces getting together somewhere they shouldn’t be isolated from the rest of the world to do a little partying and get laid only for a psycho killer in a gimmicky disguise to show up and begin mutilating them one at a time. When the remaining ones finally discover that their friends have been butchered – the corpses having been nicely rounded up and put on display for them to find – it’s a mad rush to escape, only escape isn’t that easy since the killer, who is always one step ahead of everyone else, has them trapped and cornered, forcing them to fight for their very survival.

I couldn’t help but be amused by Blood Relic as nearly every cliché in the slasher movie handbook played out with workmanlike precision. For example, one couple is into acting out rape fantasies. The moment you see the guy in a mask with a big knife engaging in this style of foreplay with his girlfriend you instantly know that she’s going to die when she mistakes the real killer for her role-playing boyfriend, and sure enough, that is exactly what happens.

Blood Relic‘s carnage is set against the backdrop of an air & space museum, and I have to give them credit because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a slasher movie set in such a place. Although, I must register my disappointment that the unique setting never really factored in to the killing other than the killer dressing up in a fighter pilot uniform complete with an identity-obscuring helmet. You’d think they could have had someone get shredded or beheaded by some propeller blades or something along those lines that fit into the theme.

According to the closing credits, the film’s original title was Scare Museum. Probably a good thing the distributor’s changed it because that title sounds more like something R.L. Stein would have written and not a bloody slasher flick. Still, it’s a better title than the generic Blood Relic.

The only real deviation from the standard slasher movie formula and the reason behind the uninspired Blood Relic title is the inclusion of a cursed charm – it’s supposed to be in the shape of some sort of monkey god but it looks conspicuously like a fancy stone someone cleaned up with a rock tumbler – that can causes the person wearing it to begin screaming into the mirror before going all 28 Days Later on their friends and co-workers. The movie opens in 1983 at the military hangar that would later become the air & space museum for a prologue explaining how a fighter pilot in possession of the talisman went psycho and killed a bunch of people. Before being captured, he hid the cursed object in a less than hidden compartment in the wall. Move up to present times at the air & space museum where the newest employee within five minutes of being hired easily locates the talisman that nobody else ever stumbled across in the 20+ years since the massacre. She immediately goes mental, at least until someone shakes her around a few times to snap her out of it.

Now as I said, the first two-thirds of the movie are by-the-book slasher movie clichés. The third act, well, that’s a whole other book, one that doesn’t make a lick of sense. At one point the movie suddenly transforms from a cheap slasher movie to a cheap war movie as we get a flashback sequence explaining how the mentally unbalanced pilot from the opening prologue obtained the dark talisman after being shot down and chased by militants in Grenada.

Then, the movie manages to outdo both Saw and Mindhunters in the preposterously absurd trap department as the killer performs a snatch and grab on a potential victim, strips her naked and hooks her up to a trap connected to the door. From the time the killer grabs the victim to the time the others go for the door the killer would have had to removed her clothes and set this trap up in roughly 2.5 seconds. Look, even a mindless slasher movie has to play by some sense of human intelligence.

Believe me, there’s more where that came from, especially when the killer’s identity and motives are revealed.

And just who will the killer turn out to be? Will it be the deranged airman that just happened to get released from the loony bin that very morning, returning to retrieve the powerful charm, and willing to kill everyone that gets in his way, or is he just a red herring to confuse the audience? Will it be the half-crazed co-owner of the air museum, so filled with venom over the possibility of having the sanctity of his beloved museum soiled with commercialization that he’s already begun threatening to kill people, or is he just a red herring to make the revelation as to the killer’s identity all the more shocking? Or will it be someone you least suspect because that person being revealed as the killer won’t make any damn sense whatsoever, but then the point wasn’t for it to make sense otherwise it couldn’t have been a surprise? And surely the revelation of the killer will have some ties to that monkey charm because, after all, the movie is entitled Blood Relic.

The real highlight of the film is Billy Drago’s performance. Drago has appeared in countless B-movies but is probably best known for his portrayal of the cold blooded enforcer Frank Nitti in the big screen version of The Untouchables, and is one of those actors you can always count on for an entertaining performance regardless of the quality of the movie he’s appearing in. Here he gives one of the most ferociously over-the-top acting jobs I’ve ever seen from any actor before. His character is that of the perpetually pissed proprietor of the museum who is being forced by the co-owners to install rides and games in order to make the place more profitable. Since he reveres the subject matter so fiercely, he considers doing so a grave insult, so much so he outright threatens to kill his partner. A bit later, he corners his newest employee and recounts for her the tale of his air force pilot father’s death, which he blames on government bureaucracy, doing so in such a rabid manner that if he isn’t already a homicidal maniac then he should seriously consider becoming one. Drago all but disappears from the movie after the first half hour and that’s a shame because his fire and brimstone performance is the best thing going.

The unstoppable Debbie Rochon also turns up, although I’m not exactly sure why because she really has a complete nothing of a role. There’s nothing special or noteworthy about her part. Heck, she doesn’t even get naked. This movie was directed by the guy that made another movie she appeared in not too long ago called Bog Creatures (Please do not even begin to get me started on how bad that film was!), so I kind of think that she’s really only in this one as a favor.

If you’re looking to satisfy your slasher movie fix then you could do a whole lot worse than Blood Relic. I’d dare call the film a “good natured” slasher movie but I’m not sure such a thing can possibly exist. It doesn’t hurt that the film boasts a truly unhinged performance by Billy Drago, as well as actresses that are willing to pop their tops quite frequently. Still, it’s fairly harmless fluff, very much a throwback to the slasher movies of the past, at least until it starts turning ridiculous in the third act, but even that manages to be entertaining in an eye-rolling sort of way.

2 out of 5

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Jon Condit