Following last month’s look at stalwart genre stylist John Hyams, now we look at his father, the great and relatively unheralded (though by no means underseen) Peter Hyams. Hyams was one of the guys who never stopped lighting like it was the ’70s, and even then it seemed like he was trying to find some kind of a meeting point between the bleak revisionism of that era and the biting noirs shot by ace cinematographer John Alton. He wanted to find something terrible in the dark, because he knew that’s where all our dirtiest secrets were located.
“The Relic” wasn’t one of his angrier films. It’s a more conventional entertainment, but it’s nevertheless a shockingly gorgeous and stirring kind of a monster movie, all too aware of the red tape that would prevent the proper authorities from doing anything about a bloodthirsty reptile living in the sewers below a museum. “The Relic” didn’t do great business and it’s failed to scare up much in the way of a cult, but this is one of my favorite American movies of the 1990s.