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A string of gruesome murders plagues the New York Museum of Natural History (Chicago in the movie) in the days leading up to a massive gala to open a new exhibit. The strange mutilations of the bodies suggests the killer may not even be human. But with so much at stake, the museum officials decide to push through the opening despite the dangers.
Provides Examples Of:
- Animated Adaptation - In-Universe example: The end mentions a Saturday morning cartoon based on the events of the novel. Given how horrific those events were, it's not surprising that the show is mentioned as having been canceled.
- Apocalyptic Log: Whittlesey's expedition journal.
- Brain Food: The Mbwun. Human brains aren't its first choice, though, it prefers to eat the plants from the Amazon used as packing material in some specimen crates (which have much higher concentrations of the hormones and such it needs). The events of the novel happen because the crates are moved to a more secure area of the basement after a curator notices they've been broken into, forcing it to search for alternatives (read: brains).
- Breakout Character - The main character in Relic and its sequel Reliquary was anthropology post-grad Margo Green, with FBI Agent Pendergast being a supporting character alongside Lt. D'Agosta. Pendergast got his own unofficial series (see Agent Pendergast), and Margo and D'Agosta show up several times.
- Chekhov's Gun: Plenty: Moriarty's sundial watch, Margo's handbag, the broken AC unit in the Computer Room.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Mbwun.
- Heroic BSOD: Smithback almost loses it in the subbasement, but D'Agosta snaps him out of it, reminding him that he's the only one he can rely on to get everyone out safely.
- Horror Hunger: For human hypothalamus.
- Humanoid Abomination: Mwbun, first shown as a statue, has a reptillian/dinosaurid bottom (tail, legs), and a more gorilla-like torso and head.
- Indy Hat Roll: Panicked party guests try to flee the museum as the security doors are activated. Some don't make it and are caught and crushed by the steel doors. Seeing as what the rest were trapped with, they were probably the lucky ones.
- Infant Immortality: Brutally averted, as the first museum victims are two young boys who wander off in a closed area. The movie turns and plays it straight though, changing the boys to the discoverers of the body and the victim becomes the old black security guard.
- Intrepid Reporter - Bill Smithback.
- It Can Think: Mbwun is able to recognize traps, hide bodies, and do what it can to stay out of sight from humans. While checking out its lair, someone stumbles across a pendant, which no regular animal would have kept. Justified by the fact that it used to be human itself.
- Jerkass: Rickman, Cuthbert, and Wright seem to be a trifecta of jerkassitiude. They get what's coming to them when their dismissal of D'Agosta's protection and Pendergast's plan to get them to safety gets Rickman and Wright killed and Cuthbert ends up in an asylum.
- Lego Genetics: See Viral Transformation.
- Lockdown: The damaged security system effectively locks everyone in the museum with the monster.
- Mauve Shirt: Security guard Fred Bereugard gets some development before being killed by the Mbwun.
- Never Found the Body: All that was ever found of Montague was a pool of blood. That is until D'Agosta and the others escaping through the subbasement find the Mbwun's lair.
- Send in the Search Team: The SWAT team sent into the museum to rescue those trapped and kill the Mbwun.
- Tragic Monster: Mbwun, once its full origin is revealed.
- Viral Transformation: The reovirus creates monsters out of anything that ingests it by inserting saurian and reptilian DNA into host cells; but the victim needs a steady supply of specialized hormones to retain its new form, the victim-turned-monster; in order to acquire these hormones, the victim must go right to the richest source available and eat the hypothalamus of its victims or go mad from the pain of being unable to sustain its new form. Notably, it is completely possible to engineer the reovirus to become a simply watered down version by using animals that aren't dinosaurs and angry killing machines (in Kawakita's case, rabbits) and diluting the reovirus's existing genes with their genes. Kawakita makes a tidy profit in the end by keeping a sample of the reovirus and being a drug dealer known for pushing "Glaze", a drug with no ill effects..
- Vomiting Cop: D'Agosta scolds himself for losing it at the second murder scene.
- Was Once a Man: The Mbwun.
- What an Idiot!: In-universe. Agent Coffey intentionally causes a bottle neck when he leaves only one door out of the Hall of Heavens open and then refuses to let D'Agosta order a sweep of the exhibit because it's been "sealed" for dramatic reveal. His actions directly lead to the discovery of a body in the exhibit by a packed crowd of people, which then panic and stampede out the bottleneck, killing at least a dozen people in the panic.