Dark Relic (2010)

James Frain stars in a good looking but middlingly scripted sword and sorcery adventure for the SyFy Channel. KSM Film UK R2 DVD.

The Film

The Holy Land during the Crusades, Sir Gregory (James Frain) recovers a piece of the true cross and gathering his surviving comrades they plan to take it to the Holy Father in Rome. When their ship is beset by a sudden storm and beaches on the Turkish coast they begin to worry that dark forces are trying to destroy the relic. Setting off on foot they encounter a pilgrim caravan that has been attacked by bandits. Sir Gregory saves the life of a Turkish warrior Hasan who insists on accompanying the group to repay his life debt and they pick up the survivors of the caravan, including the young Rebecca. Trying to find safety they find themselves under relentless attack from demonic forces...

Created by Phillip Roth's UFO Pictures for the SyFy Channel, Dark Relic is something of a 'sword and biblical sorcery' film with distinctly supernatural elements. Penned by Andy Briggs who also scripted Parisian horror Rise of the Gargoyles (2009), the central idea is certainly interesting - battle-weary Knights departing the crusades with a holy relic, having to fight off dark forces as they take it to Rome - unfortunately he is never able to fully realise its potential. There are some good set-pieces, a good action sequence when the Knights find themselves assailed by demonic monks in a remote monastery and some genuinely creepy scenes when one of the group becomes possessed; the characterisation of Sir Gregory's loss of faith after the horrors he has seen is well written.

A lot of other ideas do not work so well - the addition of a group of Muslim Turks who end up travelling with the Crusaders provides some well written exchanges but too many over-emphasised "feel good moments" as they put aside their religious differences to work together. The Rebecca character is far more annoying, spouting some heavily anachronistic atheist views that seem horribly shoehorned in and the idea of a common person (man or woman) in this era would be able to get the education to espouse such views just seems incredible. Some of the demonic attacks on the group feel unnecessary and rather half-hearted - they are attacked by wolves and bugs but they seem to give up easily and never seem interested in attacking the main characters in favour of killing a few extras. Pacing does drag in a few scenes until a rather silly (but not unexpected) climax.

Credited to the otherwise unknown "Lorenzo Sena", Dark Relic was shot like so many of its kin in Bulgaria and the physical sets and locations all look quite good, camerawork is decent with lots of tracking shots and editing is solid, keeping the film comprehensible throughout. Unfortunately the film is badly let down by its effects - while CGI effects in SyFy Channel Original often feel to be a decade behind that seen in big-budget productions, the effects in here are glaringly poor, sub-Asylum quality at times. A couple of practical gory effects at least look good, but they are underused compared to some of the more entertaining genre entries. The soundtrack is fittingly dark and gothic, working well.

British actor James Frain plays Sir Gregory and puts his all into the material (where many might have just phoned it in), he certainly looks the part as a Knight and captures the character really well. British based Pakistani actor Alyy Khan similarly gives a fine performance as Hasan, although he really does not look very Turkish. The rest of the cast give fair but forgettable performances. Samuel West has a brief part as the possessed abbott.

Among the myriad of SyFy Channel and DTV adventure films, Dark Relic certainly boasts a plot that while not the most original, certainly has good potential and there are a few good set pieces - unfortunately some annoying characterisation and an unambitious storyline development mean that the film drags in places towards an unexciting climax. James Frain gives a strong turn as Sir Gregory while the direction and set-design are always good, but the CGI effects are sub-par and acting outside of the lead roles is unmemorable. Watchable and a fair time passer but more disappointing than enjoyable.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? James Frain - Yorkshire born actor who made his name playing Thomas Cromwell on The Tudors (2007-10)
Directed by anyone interesting? Lorenzo Sena - an otherwise unknown name, might well be a pseudonym.
Any gore or violence ? Some bloody deaths and a little gore, nothing strong.
Any sex or nudity? None.
Who is it for? Fans of sword and sorcery and SyFy channel adventures may enjoy, although it is a sub-par entry into either genre.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The clean digital print, no transfer issues - the many dark scenes are all clear.
Audio 5.1 Dolby Surround - sounds fine.
Subtitles None
Extras The disc includes:
  • Original Trailer
  • Photo gallery - a selection of publicity stills as a video file with backing music (1m 30s)
  • Bonus trailers for similar SyFy films - Dragon Dynasty, Thor - Hammer of the Gods, Immortal Voyage of Captain Drake, Grendel - Legend of Beowulf and Humanity's End.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? No US release, also available in the UK on Blu-Ray.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 17th January 2015.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

Please contact: