(Featured Image uses art from original Motion Picture The Relic)
They brought it back. Bursting onto the nineties horror movie scene as a full-length creature-feature, the film adaptation of writers Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s The Relic premiered at a time when horror was slinking along in the distant wake of ’80s slasher franchises.
Part sci-fi, part horror, The Relic had a monster as its principal antagonist, a fairly bold move considering an original horror creature film hadn’t been released since Tremors, five years prior. (Incidentally, both The Relic and Mimic, a horror film about giant ‘cockroaches’ were released the same year in what may have been a brief, if failed attempt to bring monsters back front and center)
The story of The Relic’s monster begins with an anthropologist returning to civilization after getting a life-altering taste of a South American tribe he was studying. Transformed into the film’s titular villain, a part reptilian, part feline, part human hybrid, The Relic received mixed reviews when it premiered. I personally remember when the movie came out and while I wasn’t it’s greatest fan, I did enjoy the creature itself. It moved like a big cat and had fairly obvious Predator call-back features which made it a memorable baddie.
In researching this creature, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a lot of its effects were done with an actual real-life model. Taking the description from the novel it’s based on, Stan Winston Studio helped bring the Kothoga to real-life form from its literary roots. Being a genetic mashup, the creature went through a lot of revisions before its eventual life-sized construction. This life-sized model was even equipped to be manned by an actual crew member and had a complex sculpted head that was manipulated remotely. In fact, three kothoga suits nicknamed ‘Bob’ were on set with one being set on fire during the films climax. Although the film did use CGI for many scenes, Director Peter Hyam’s decision to use real-life models for many scenes gives this overlooked horror film a little more weight in my mind than many similar creature features.
The kothoga, which according to the film means ‘Satan as my father’, was a fun creature to research and I’m glad it was requested! Although it definitely had sparse online analysis to help in its design (along with very few fan art), I think I did the hybrid beast justice – but let’s take a look!
Conversion. The creature is described variously as fast and deadly, with scaly skin hard enough to withstand bullets. It’s size alone makes it a fairly difficult opponent although in the bestiary of typical D&D monsters the kothoga doesn’t have magical abilities or anything that makes it truly fantastical. It’s just an apex predator, plain and simple.
Since it’s basically a beast, taking various features from each base creature the hybrid DNA is composed of seemed like a good avenue to start with. Lions, tigers and panthers all have the ability to scent their prey and pounce, a likely easy thing to incorporate into its design. Its tough hide means its got good natural armor and its clawed talons give it a climb speed. Its reptilian tail presents an additional means of attack aside from its talons and bite. For a unique power, the mind flayer’s brain action fits perfectly with the creatures need to devour hypothalamus’.
The lore of the creature is just as interesting as its abilities and gives it some real depth. It also gives DMs an excellent way to present the creature a sympathetic backstory. Even more, it gives DMs a means to infect players with a terrifying form of lycanthropy.
What do you think, is the brain-hunting kothoga a formidable foe? Download my rendition of The Relic’s Kothoga stats in JPEG1 | JPEG2 or pdf format for your campaign and hunt your players down and devour their brains!)