The Shrine (2012)

The Shrine could’ve been superb. The premise is excellent, the twist surprising and the horror genuinely disturbing in places. Unfortunately the acting and dialogue clunks and creaks in places and the first thirty minutes can make for tiresome viewing. Although certainly a good film, The Shrine smacks of missed potential.

American backpacker Eric Taylor is missing. We know what’s happened to him because the pre-credits sequence reveal a hooded monk slamming a bastard-huge hammer into his face. Ouch. Yet the employees of D-Cypher mystery solving magazine don’t know this and decide to investigate his disappearance. At least Carmen (Cindy Sampson) wants to. Her boss hates the idea and wants her to investigate why all the bees are dying in Omaha instead….

Lying to her boss, Carmen skips off to Poland (for “Poland”, please read “a generic Eastern-European country”) alongside identikit friend, colleague and obvious cannon-fodder Sara (Meghan Heffern), pretending to their boss that they’re actually off to Omaha on bee-genocide research. Dragging her photographer boyfriend Marcus (Aaron Ashmore) along for the thrill-ride, they soon find themselves in the place our missing backpacker was last seen alive…

The build up is pedestrian, bordering on absolutely dull, but I urge you to continue if you get that far. It does get better. Much better.

Once the trio reach the generic Polish village, they’re treated to a typically hostile reception, an ominous church run by black-mitred priests and glimpse the forbidden forest, which constantly has an unmoving cloud of smoke hanging over it. Spooky.

Undeterred by a threat from a dyed-blonde Polish stereotype (Trevor Matthews) and his pitchfork-wielding friends, the “investigators” opt to check out the forest of doom anyway. Ah, good old curiosity – what a feline-butchering thing you are. Finding an ominous wall of physics-hating mist, Sara decides to wander into it… and then the fun really begins.

I refuse to say more about The Shrine’s plot as the twists n’ turns start to get vastly more effective after this point and I don’t want to spoil it. It becomes disturbing, scary, utterly vicious and hugely surprising.

It is such a shame that The Shrine suffers heavily in the first act, with generic, uninspiring dialogue and some appalling acting by the bloke who plays Carmen’s boss. It has a very budget, cheap feel early on and unnecessarily so considering the remainder of the film.

Terror-wise The Shrine does well on numerous counts: jump-scary in places, genuinely creepy in others and viciously brutal. It certainly earns it’s 18 (UK) certificate, featuring eye-stabbing, child-gutting, intestine-ripping, bloody violence. And it’s very well done too.

The Shrine does suffer from some serious logic gaps (spoiler alert!): why didn’t the Polish guys escort the American intruders from the village, why hadn’t anyone built a frickin’ wall around “the shrine”, why did Carmen have a weird, pre-cognitive dream (that had no bearing on the plot) and why – why oh why! – did this intelligent cult send their victims’ luggage all around Europe instead of simply incinerating the stuff! Duh! These are issues that could’ve easily been solved in the initial writing stages and not affected the plot at all… it’s frustrating stuff.

Location wise, setting it in Poland also seems to have no bearing on plot, and just forces Trevor Matthews (who played Jack Brooks, Monster Slayer!) to do a ropey Polish accent! The Shrine actually comes from the minds of the Jack Brooks creators, and it’s a vast improvement on their failed attempt at a comedy-horror franchise. The Shrine is much more mature and quite genius in places.

Overall The Shrine is a tough watch. It starts incredibly slowly and is a plodding, forgettable cliché… until the girls enter the wall of mist and everything goes a bit mental. It is an enjoyable film and well worth watching, but it could’ve been a classic if not for the poorly-constructed beginning.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

One Comment on “The Shrine”

  1. Sarah B DeMented says:

    Don’t forget the ropey green screenery in places. Ugh, that was so poorly done.

    I think it was actually Canada that substituted for Poland and I’ve heard a lot of people complain that it looks absolutely nothing like Poland but geographical errors aside, I thought this was pretty good. Certainly in terms of originality which is a precious commodity in horror these days, amidst a see of remakes, reboots and endless franchise additions.

    One thing I thought was worthy of note was the fact that there were no subtitles for the “Polish” folks. Judging from message boards, etc, this appears to be a bone of contention for some people but I loved the lack of subtitles. Without giving anything away, to subtitle them would be akin to subtitling the Norwegian fellas at the start of The Thing. A massive giveaway! Also, I thought it helped build the atmosphere; it was easier to put yourselves in the American characters shoes as they wouldn’t have know what was being said either and that alone would be terrifying given the situation.

    Anyway, that was a very long way of saying I agree. I’d have gone to 6.5 skulls :)

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