new releases

The Relic

(18) 109 mins *‘kt

Never more than functional, but never less than mindlessly enjoy- able, this surprisingly nasty horror movie blends elements of the haunted house, serial killer and monster mayhem sub-genres in a way that grabs your attention and won't let go.

After more than 100 minutes of relentless tension, you may feel more drained than edified, but it’s hard to resist the constant bombardment of knee-jerk shocks, scientific gobbledegook, South American mythology and head- ripping gore. And while it's difficult to swallow a plot device that relies on a mystery virus producing dramatic changes in the DNA structure of a mythical beast - thereby provoking rapid evolution- ary changes and startling growth - there's enough interest in the well- drawn characters to get you through the ludicrous cod-genetics.

Only hours before a fund-raising evening at Chicago’s natural history museum, a violent murder brings police lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta (Tom Sizemore) into conflict with the cash-strapped establishment's director, Dr Ann Cuthbert (Linda Hunt). Despite fears that a psycho killer may be loose in the building, she insists on going ahead with the gala evening. Evolutionary scientist Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller) shares D'Agosta's fears, and like the well-heeled guests who assemble in the museum's giant atrium, she's about to learn that ancient myths are often founded in terrible truth. Kothoga, a shape-shifting creature conjured up by pissed-off Amazon Indians, is about to chew its way through some of the city wealthiest benefactors.

Carlito’s Way star Miller has the depth and presence to convince us she's smart enough to survive this night of terror, while Sizemore hitherto known as a

Tunnel terror: Penelope Ann Miller in The Relic

consummate character actor in Heat and Strange Days carries off his first leading man role with confidence.

It’s not hard to spot who'll be next to suffer Kothoga’s wrath, but since the creature is constantly evolving, the methods of dispatch are at least varied. And by keeping Kothoga hidden until the last minute, director Peter Hyams maximises the impact of sfx man Stan Winston's extraordinary creature design. Aficionados of gruesome, on-screen decapitation will enjoy the scene in which a victim is seized in Kothoga's jaws, then shaken like rag doll until his torso becomes detached from his noggin. Enervating, reprehensible and fun while it lasts. (Nigel Floyd)

I General release from Fri 76 May

dungball; two stag beetles lock horns on a twig-bridge, like royal stags rutting, a spider traps grasshoppers, cocooning them in her web; her cousin, the argyronet spider builds an air-bubble diVing bell in a pond as a sanctuary in which to devour a tiny Shrimp. This all-but-invisible ecosystem is devastated by a passing pheasant or a light fall of rain.

The award-Winning macro- photography and imaginative sound evoke and surpass the artificial worlds created in all those science fiction mowes. Here it’s real, \Nlill an emphasis which is less on the gore and more on the extraordinary habits of your common, garden-variety bug

Microcosmos (U) 75 mins Hut

Microcosmos is a bug-eyed look at the world of insects from biologist filmmakers Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou. Somewhere between a narrativeless documentary and an ensemble piece for its array of tiny characters, the English version has the briefest of preambles by Kristin Scott Thomas before the action begins.

24 THE LIST 16—29 May 1997

Bug-eyed: a dragonfly in Microcosmos

What unfolds is a kind of macro- scopic life-in-a-day between the blades of grass in an overgrown meadow. A Iadybird scoffs some aphids before being chased away by the ant 'farmers’ protecting their livestock; two ants share a dewdrop which seems like a gigantic bubble; a bee ‘mates' With an orchid; a snail pair embrace slimily on a bed of moss; a sacred (but stupid) beetle finds the path of most resistance over which to push an enormous

Nuridsany and Perennou spent years deSigning eqmpment for and filming Microcosmos, distilling the results into an hour and a quarter of interesting entertainment. It might seem a bit long even at that, but it's still an unusual Cinema release worth seeing. A must for biologists and school pupils, it should also appeal to anyone With enough imagination to marvel at the fantastical miniature world we have at our feet. (Gio MacDonald)

I Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Film/muse from Fri 1 6 May

Space Truckers (12) 92 mins *

Even allowing for some desperate financial difficulties mid-way through shooting, it’s hard to fathom how this intergalactic ’road movie' went so disastrously and utterly wrong. Fortress director Stuart Gordon had a budget of around $23 million, a name cast that included veteran weirdo Dennis Hopper and handsome hotshot Stephen Dorff, plus a more-than- respectable sfx team. Sadly, what should have been an off-beat science fiction comedy has ended up as a clunky, predictable pot-boiler.

Only Charles Dance, perversely cast against type, saves it from complete tedium, with his hilarious, self-mocking portrayal of the physically mangled, seriously deranged space pirate Captain Macanudo.

Things are stymied from the outset by an episodic plot that breaks the action down into easily digestible but flavourless bite-size chunks, rather like the genetically manufactured pigs ('square hogs for a square meal') that Hopper’s independent space trucker John Canyon is seen delivering in the first scene. There is a derivative feel to almost every image and design: Hopper’s spaced-out cowboy persona is old hat, his father-son relationship with Dorff's trainee trucker is corny as hell, and Debi Mazar’s exiled Noo Yawk diner waitress, Cindy, is a merely a riff on the gum-chewing bimbos she’s been typecast as before.

When this ill-suited trio set off for Earth, carrying a mysterious cargo of what might be blow-up sex dolls, the peg-legged Macanudo and his scurvy crew are on hand to waylay their ship and provide some much-needed comic relief. But when the pirate captain tries to jolly roger Cindy (with the aid of a malfunctioning wind-up dick), Hopper and trusty sidekick Dorff decide to settle the score. What they haven’t reckoned with is a consignment of bio- mechanical warriors who threaten to make fish food out of all of them.

With its jokey mood and toned-down violence, this would seem to be aimed at undemanding teenagers who will probably end up seeing it on video.

However, nothing gels, and the effects and

sequences are tacky unimaginative. (Nigel Floyd) I Selected release from Fri 23 May.

Motor mouth: something weird in

Space Truckers

STAR RATINGS * t t * * Outstanding * at t * Recommended * t it Worth a try it it 50-50 sir Poor