Thanks to Black Panther, there has been a real-world focus on how museums acquire indigenous artifacts and if they have a right to retain them. The art world may have been grappling with this question internally for years but now articles are appearing on my far-from-museum-centric timeline. It’s brought back to mind a great creature feature set in a museum – The Relic.
Chaos and mayhem descends on a Chicago museum when a fierce monster begins stalking it’s exhibits. What is this beast? Where did it come from? Does it have anything to do with a recent shipment the museum received from a pompous anthropologist who made direct contact with an indigenous tribe? Hmmm.
The Relic is a fun movie that in several ways follows the Jaws/terror at the beach formula. There is an important event that MUST go on even though people have been murdered. See, the 1st victims are expendable; obviously the creature isn’t interested in people with money. The wise, but low class policeman must be put in his place. It’s not long before the museum realizes that going on with the party is a mistake.
Behind the scenes, office politics are on overdrive. It’s fun watching haughty, pretentious people get their comeuppance.
There’s also a nice nod to Dracula: material acquired for museum research arrives on a ship that does not have a living crew. It deceptively suggests a familiar villain.
On the creature itself, how is this big, bulky thing able to stay hidden until it decides to party? The nature of the museum exhibit gives it a wonderful place to hide. What is it? There’s an explanation in the movie that boils down to a fascinating method of self-defense (or warfare, depending on your point of view).
Bottom line: Museum anthropologist need to be careful what they take from other cultures.
Tip: If someone on your job has been murdered in an unusual way, call in sick for the next couple of days.