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|“|| Dr. Albert Frock: You're not crazy, Margo. Don't you see, girl? It's the callisto effect. It's really true. The Kothoga myth was based on fact. The people of the Zenzera tribe, when they were threatened by an enemy, they must have fed some of those hormonal leaves to some animal, and it caused a riot in its DNA, and it was transformed into some horrific beast. But the beast needed those hormones to stay alive, so when it was big enough and deadly enough, they stopped feeding it. So it would have to find some other way to get the hormone. They're enemies. Yes, and when the enemies were dead and it had no more hormones, it would eventually die, and the Zenzera would come out from hiding.|
Lt. Vincent D'Agosta: Well, we don't have time to wait for eventually, so here's my question, how the f-ck do we kill that thing?
|~ Dr. Albert Frock discussing about the Kothoga.|
The Kothoga, also known as Mbwun and John Whitney in its human form, is the main antagonist of the 1997 science fiction horror film The Relic, which is based on the 1995 novel Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. It is an ancient, mutated, animalistic hybrid creature with the characteristics of reptiles, fish, primates, mammals, and insects. It is soon later revealed to be Dr. John Whitney, an anthropologist for the Museum of Natural History in Chicago after he drank a soup made by South American tribesmen which transformed him into the monster.
It was portrayed by Vincent Hammond and Brian Steele (who also played Mr. Wink in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Sammael in Hellboy, William Corvinus in Underworld: Evolution and Berserker Predator in Predators), while its vocal sound effects were provided by Gary A. Hecker. As John Whitney in human form, he was portrayed by the late Lewis Van Bergen.
Kothogas are ancient, legendary monsters born from either a human or animal consuming the fungus with mutagenic hormones used by a South American tribe against a threat to their people. Said monsters can only survive by feeding on the same hormone in either the fungus or vertebrates' hypothalamus, and was unleashed upon the tribe's enemies before eventually leaving to starve to death once it outlived their usefulness. As terrifying as it is, the creature seemed to be described as their guardian since the tribe carved a statue themed after it, one that John Whitney takes when he meets the South American tribe.
Marking the anthropologist as a threat, the tribesmen laced the soup they gave to Whitney with the same fungus and allowed him to take leaves with more fungus to prolong his later rampage as a monster. Under the influence of the fungus he consumed, he accosted the captain of a merchant ship, asking that the ship (which contains the fungus in question) he has sent back to Chicago be unloaded from the ship. When the captain informs him that it's too late because the ship is about to leave, Whitney sneaks aboard for said shipment to no avail much to his dismay. Eventually, he transforms into a new Kothoga that slaughtered the people on board before making his way for the Museum of Natural History in Chicago he worked for through the sewers.
The Kothoga's killing spree and haunting over the Field Museum of Natural History attracted the attention of Chicago PD homicide detective Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta and his partner, Sgt. Hollingsworth, who suggested Dr. Ann Cuthbert, the museum director, to lock down the museum until they managed to find the culprit, only for their suggestion to fall into deaf ears due to an important upcoming exhibition. Around this time, Margo and her mentor Dr. Frock examine fungus on the leaves in Whitney's crates along with the Kothoga statue in which the former learned the fungus' mutagenic properties both from hormones in said fungus and the beetle mutated by the same fungus found along with the crates' contains. However, little did they know that a bigger and stronger mutant was on the loose.
When the museum begins its important exhibition event, D'Agosta orders a lock-down of all museum areas except the main exhibition hall, knowing that the culprit of the murders will still be on the loose, but he and his fellow officers shoot the wrong person (after they mistook the deranged homeless ex-convict as their target, only for pieces of evidence surrounding him said otherwise), trapping Margo and Dr. Frock in the process just as they learned the killer is after the hormones on the leaves. It is then D'Agosta and his men encountered the Kothoga in a bloody confrontation which prompted him to alert Cuthbert. Unfortunately, it was too late as by this point, the monster drops the headless corpse of an officer right in front of the visitors, unleashing panic which subsequently causes every single museum security system to go haywire and trap a handful of visitors. In the ensuing chaos, the monster kills the security guards as they try to restore the power. The Kothoga then goes after D'Agosta, Margo, and Dr. Frock in the lab, only to be stopped by an activated steel door.
The monster continues its killing spree as the three discuss the Kothoga's origins and ties with hormones with fungus belonged to a South American tribe while he sucks humans' hypothalamus as a substitute for fungus to survive. Margo and her allies at first attempted to kill the Kothoga with liquid nitrogen, believing being part reptile makes him susceptible to cold and using the leaves as bait. Although the attempt failed with CPD officer, Dr. Frock, and one of the guests is killed in the process, D'Agosta managed to evacuate the rest before joining Margo for another attempt. Returning to the lab with the Kothoga catching up, the analysis on the creature's DNA reveals Whitney's genes in it, revealing his original identity.
The Kothoga manages to corner Margo and separate D'Agosta during the chase, but unexpectedly hesitates as it suddenly recognizes Margo because of Whitney's human mind resurfacing. In the monster's moment of weakness, Margo blows up the lab and hides inside a maceration tank to protect herself in time from the blast, killing the beast and putting the monster that Whitney had become to rest. As dawn comes, D'Agosta and a team of police break into the lab, find the charred remains of the Kothoga and rescue Margo from the tank.
The Kothoga is a chimeric creature combining aspects of fish, reptiles, primates, and insects. Its body is quadrupedal with a sloping back. Its backside is covered in muddy green crocodilian scales and its underbelly has scales that are a pale flesh tone. A row of spines runs down its back, as well as a dark brown main on the back of its head and another mane at the base of its thin but muscular tail. The Kothoga's head has two very small glowing white eyes, exposed gums, anglerfish-like teeth, and two pairs of tusks/mandibles (a large one and a smaller one below the larger one).
As the latest incarnation of Kothoga/Mbwun, John Whitney became the carnivorous and feral monster driven by the desire to survive by consuming hormones in either the hypothalamus of humans and/or vertebrate creatures, or fungus that acted as the source of his current form's powers. Because of his human self's intelligence, Whitney can recognize traps, hide bodies, and do what it can to stay out of sight from humans, making him more dangerous none other than a mindless and instinctive monster he seemed to be.
The major difference between the film version and the book of this character is his humanity, whereas Whitney mostly succumbed into his monster persona and barely holds his human mind (his human persona only briefly surfaced when he immediately recognizes Margo). However, his book incarnation Whittlesey was described by Margo and Ian Cuthbert as a sad and lonely being. Indeed, the novel incarnation of the creature was stated to be more stealthier likely out of shame from his deed and current appearance. Regardless, it's evident that the only way to save Whitney/Whittlesey is to put him out of his misery.
- In the 1995 novel of the same name, the Kothoga was the name of the tribe of which the monster is the legend of, but the tribe goes unnamed in the film.
- Also, unlike in the film, Kothoga is described as half-ape, half-human, and half-gecko with no insectoid features, let alone with no prehensile tongue. Additionally, he is much smaller yet durable, as his skull and hide were described to be durable enough that bullets fired at its head were deflected. He is finally killed by Agent Pendergast, who shoots him through his eye socket with a large caliber handgun instead of being incinerated to death.
- Whitney is much more sympathetic as he tried his best to retain remnants of his humanity for seven years of his life as a monster by only after animals and crates full of Mbwun plants until the crates' removal forced him to kill.
- Lastly, his human self's name in the book is called Julian Whittlesey instead of John Whitney.