“The Shrine” tells the story of journalist Carmen (Cindy Sampson), who decides to investigate the disappearance of a young man who was backpacking in Europe. She has connected this to other disappearances with similar details and wants to find out more.
Carmen’s intern, Sara (Meghan Heffern), is interested in investigating the case too, but their boss forbids them from digging any further into what he feels is a dead story. Carmen has a troubled relationship with her photographer boyfriend Marcus (Aaron Ashmore), as she is far too involved in her work, but she asks him to join her and Sara on their trip to try and track down the missing man.
The opening scene shows that the missing young man, Eric Taylor (Ben Lewis), has been murdered in a ritualistic fashion. Carmen has a rather terrifying vision of him the night before she leaves, although she is unaware he is dead.
Camen, Sara and Marcus end up in Alvania, a fictional village in Poland and the last place Eric noted in his travel journal. He also noted that the people in the town were very cold to him, and that there was an odd smoke or fog in the forest that never seemed to move.
The trio walk around the village to try and gather more intel and end up talking to a young girl, Lidia (Julia Debowska). She tells them nothing of use and is shooed off by her aggressive and creepy dad, Henryk (Trevor Matthews). They also witness some type of church ceremony and are confronted by Henryk and told to leave immediately.
They don’t listen, of course, and head into the forest to check out the bizarre column of fog they’ve spotted. This is a terrible idea as both Carmen and Sara get lost in the thick mass and see a very foreboding statue that does foreboding things to freak them the heck out.
They both eventually find their way out to Marcus, who wisely decided to not go into the fog of doom. He tells them it’s time to go when they again meet up with Lidia, who tells them she knows where Eric is. The dummies follow her to a cellar-looking affair and things go from bad to worse as the townies confront the interlopers and all hell breaks loose. (Warning: There are a few spoilers ahead.)
Some of the practical effects looked really nice. Carmen has a bit of transformation that looks pretty good and is appropriately creepy. There are some nice gore effects as well when a local family is killed by someone very bad. I’ll leave it at that.
There’s a mix of digital and practical here, and both work; although, I liked the practical stuff better. I’m old school when it comes to effects in horror flicks.
The fog idea was nice and could have been used to much better effect. The quiet scenes with Carmen and Sara both trying to find their way around in the dense cloud were cool and should have come into play more than once during this film.
The scenery was nice — it was shot in Canada — and provided a decent backdrop for the external scenes.
The score by Ryan Shore worked as well, and he was nominated for a Grammy for his efforts here.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The characters are overused horror movie tropes. There’s the logical one who wants to flee (Marcus), the one who walks into danger like an idiot (Carmen) and the one who is the follower (Sara). The only things missing are the jock and the virgin.
Carmen only gets interesting late in the movie, and there should have been a lot more of her having a good time at the townsfolk and Marcus’ expense. The end came way too fast, and this was a waste of an opportunity.
Also, Carmen’s original vision of Eric is completely ignored. She never tells the other two what she saw, and it never comes up again. This could have been used to much greater advantage, with other victims also showing up in visions to either Carmen alone or all three of the characters.
The English dialogue sounds forced, and I couldn’t understand the Polish dialogue at all. I would normally think it was a bold choice to not subtitle because it adds intrigue, but I don’t think that worked here. There was a significant amount of Polish spoken, and I would have liked subtitles for at least part of the film.
Although I generally don’t need the “info dump” on the lurking evil things that occupy a film, at least A LITTLE information would have been nice. There’s a way to work it in enough to pique interest without being heavy-handed. There was nothing, unless the info dump was done during the Polish dialogue, which does me no good. I understood the motivation behind why the townsfolk were acting as they were, that is fairly obvious, but give me a little back story on the rest. Generally this isn’t a sticking point for me. Sometimes the mystery is a good thing, but not this time.
The gore factor is mid-level, nothing over the top but enough toward the end to make the point. There is no real nudity; although, the women’s clothes are ripped off at one point so they can be outfitted in what appears to be white communion dresses. There’s some language, mostly from Ashmore dropping the F-bomb.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
“The Shrine” (2010) was written by Jon Knautz, Brendan Moore and Trevor Matthews, based on a story by Knautz and Moore. It was directed by Knautz and stars Cindy Sampson, Aaron Ashmore, Meghan Heffern, Trevor Matthews and Julia Debowska.