Directed by- Jon Knautz
Cast Members of Note- Aaron "The Other" Ashmore, Cindy Sampson, Meghan Heffern, and a bunch of people pretending to be Polish.
What's it About?- The Shrine is yet another story about an over ambitious woman getting herself and her friends in a load of creepy trouble (e.g. The Tunnel, Blair Witch, etc...) Carmen is a journalist who is tired of writing stories about bees. When her boss sends her on a trip to write yet another scathing expose' on bees, she instead takes off for Poland, to search for a missing backpacker. Of course she can't just go alone, so she brings along her trusty intern sidekick and her photographer boyfriend.
The missing backpacker was last seen near a creepy little town in the remote countryside of rural Poland (which looks a lot like Canada), and so Carmen decides to snoop around. It's not long before they meet a creepy kid and her blood covered dad, who shoo them off with angry Polish curses. Carmen has to get her story though, so she refuses to leave well enough alone, and begins snooping even more. When the investigative trio finds an odd swirl of fog in the middle of the woods, they figure, "hey, let's see what's in the middle of this!" It turns out to be a great idea.
And what exactly is in the thick depths of the absolutely unnatural fog? A statue of a demon, that's what. A creepy f'ing statue that bleeds. It's interesting to note that the statue bears a certain similarity to another creepy demon statue we've all come to know and love... what was it called... oh yeah, Pazuzu!
So now they have angry Polish villagers, a statue, a creepy kid and a haunted fog bank after them, which pretty much means they're screwed. What is going on in this crazy Polish town? What was with that fog? Why is there always a creepy little kid*? Far be it from me to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that when the answers are revealed, they find out what happened to the missing backpacker. *because kids are creepy, that's why.
The Good- I can hardly believe that this movie was made by the same people responsible for Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. That movie was one of our Do Not Want's last year if I recall it right, and The Shrine is something we very much want. So to recap, Jack Brooks sucked, this didn't. Now that we've cleared that up...
Aside from our Downright Horrendous gripe (below), The Shrine was enjoyable from start to finish, although the first half was a lot slower that the latter half. It wasn't "bad slow", but it's only fair to note that the set-up/build-up took a little while. Once the movie kicked into high gear though, it was engrossing and even nail biting at times. Best of all, it was creepy; Jon Knautz did what I'm always begging horror directors to do, and that's use subtlety to scare me, not jump scares and music cues. His approach worked very well. If Knautz keeps this kind of thing up, he might just be one of the genre's most important directors in a few years.
The look, the feel, the acting; all solid. It's just a great story. The twists and turns that the movie takes were solid and not cringe inducing (for a change), and the ending was actually an ending. No cliffhangers. No lame ambiguity. It came to a climax, had a bit of resolution, and it ended. That was nice for a change.
The Bad- Where are the subtitles? I need to know what they're saying!
The Downright Horrendous- For the love of Christ, here are another bunch of characters that make the worst decisions in the world. Boss tells you to go investigate bees in Kansas? Nah, go to Poland to search for a missing backpacker. Get caught poking around in the Polish forest by angry locals that tell you to leave? Turn the car around and keep snooping. See an unearthly looking fog? Explore it. And when the creepy kid takes you to an underground bunker in the forest, by all means, trust her. Find coffins in the bunker? Don't run like hell and enjoy the rest of your life, open them. See what's inside! Bah!
The Gory- The Shrine is no slouch when it comes to the bloody bits. There's some nasty eye violence, sacrifice, a mass murder home invasion... not overboard, but definitely sufficient.
The Naked- We get a tiny bit of side boob and a few shots of naked and wet girls, though the good bits are all covered up.
What did we learn?- Don't fuck with Polish priests. Also, it's always the woman's fault.
The Master Says- A- This movie surprised the hell out of us and made us love it. Aside from the all too common "characters doing the dumbest things at the worst possible times" messiness, there wasn't much to not like about The Shrine; it looks good, it's creepy, the actors nail it, and and the ending was pretty awesome. In the U.S., if you have Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, Cablevision or Bright House, it's on VOD now, and you should make this one your next rental
Final Thoughts- She's in this.