Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
If nothing else we have to give director Lorenzo Sena's SyFy Channel extravaganza 'Dark Relic' and A for Effort.  We've all seen our fair share of SyFy originals over the years and a lot of the times it looks like the filmmakers, due to the burden of time and financial constraints, don't even try, but I could feel the attempt to do right with this one.  Of course the execution didn't quite live up to the effort put in but sometimes we take what we can get.

It's been a long hard road for Templar Knight Sir Gregory (James Frain).  The Crusades have finally come to a merciful end and Sir Gregory and his loyal knights have to make one quick stop before heading back to Rome. Somehow they got word that a piece of the Crucifixion cross of Jesus Christ is available in layaway, and after Friar George (Samuel West) verifies its accuracy, now these knights have the perfect gift to present to the monsignor when they get back home.

And if by 'perfect gift' we mean 'Satan's Curio', then that's what we mean.  Things start off pretty bad for these knights from the word 'go'.  The ship they were cruising on finds it's fresh water turned to salt water, it's food turned to maggots… which can be tasty when properly prepared… followed by a murderous storm, finally ending up beached on some forgotten land.  And that's the good news for these guys.

Still, the goal is to make it to Rome with their treasure and along the way they've picked up a Muslim Turk in Hasan (Alvy Khan), his double blade wielding hot wife Safa (Marija Karan), and the non-believing wench Rebecca (Clemency Burton-Hill).  They pick up a few more people but these losers will only be devil fodder so we
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won't concern ourselves with them.   So the knights and their new crew walk through the woods, magic box in tow, and evil straight from Revelations seems to be following them wherever they go.  Dead birds fall from the sky, carnivorous locust appear out of nowhere, poorly rendered CGI wolves cause a ruckus, and monks turn into wall crawling zombies.  That's probably from one of the missing books of Revelations.

Well this doesn't make any sense since these cats are carting around a piece of wood that has the blood of The Savior so they should be safe, not cursed, but what if some lunatic… I don't know… like Satan… cursed this piece of the cross.  He does that kind of thing you know.  And what if Satan, or some reasonable poorly rendered facsimile thereof, is flying around cleaning up what the pestilence he has sent couldn't finish off?  How do you stop that?  And what if this now evil box of wood makes it all the way to Rome?  End of days perhaps?  Not if Sir Gregory, beat down, depressed, disillusioned Templar Knight has anything to say about it.  Or his new woman Rebecca the Non-Believer who is starting to believe stuff all the sudden.  Wall crawling zombie monks will do that to you.  And while Satan might seem like a big tree to chop down, it's been my cinematic experience that if you have a big enough weapon, he can be summarily dealt with. 

Where is this effort that we spoke of in this movie Dark Relic?  For starters we can point to actor James Frain who is a fine thespian and has been in a number of high brow productions and he brings a certain sense of legitimacy to his character of Sir Gregory.  Sir Gregory has been through a lot and seen way too much and Frain effectively translates Sir Gregory's weariness to his audience in a way that only a seasoned, talented actor can.  Across the board 'Dark Relic' has solid performances, including the 'Bulgarian Crew' which includes actors Mike Straub, Velizar Binev and Antanas Sebebrev… clearly I watch too many low budget movies shot in Bulagaria… but these actors and most of the cast straight away pushes this over the usual SyFy original fare.  Also this movie tries to have a little bit of brain as the characters will speak of religion, the similarities of certain religions and things that we will do in the name of God which is also welcome.  True, it's probably not the most intellectually challenging of conversations, but this is a SyFy original with a bad CGI Satan floating around so this too is appreciated.

What's holding 'Dark Relic' back?  It's the same thing that restricts almost every other fantasy based SyFy movie, and that's the bad CGI.  I know that there's no real cure for this because top notch CGI costs money, but it's still a problem because every last one of us knows what decent computer graphics are supposed to look like so when we see a fake looking boat being tossed about by fake looking waves on a fake sea, it takes you out the cinematic moment.  Fake looking CGI wolves that growl real good also kind of ruin the deal.  The CGI Satan did have its moments, at least in comparison to some of the other bad CGI we were looking at, but it too was kind of chintzy the majority of the time.  Obviously no one is listening to my advice but I still think if you one can't pull off decent special effects, then let's concentrate on a real world work-around.  Like instead of a CGI satan, how about a dude in a rubber suit?  It worked back in the day.

So we admire 'Dark Relic' for what it succeeded at, and we're sad for 'Dark Relic' for what it failed at which added all together makes for an above average SyFy original.  When the SyFy curve is applied.
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