Not a film too far in our past, but definitely one that feels slightly pushed under the curtain. Canada’s 2010 horror The Shrine is a gem among modern horrors and has just the right amount of gory spunk to it! Ontario native Jon Knautz directs and delivers a film that I think went on to be a horror of greater evil.
An American backpacker suddenly goes missing in Europe and a group of journalists find out that his last whereabouts were in a remote village in Poland. As they discover that his last logged experience was the sight of an eerie statue in the forest, they head out to the countryside of this Polish village. There they are verbally harassed by the locals, almost chased away completely for snooping around, until they rebel and go back to investigate an ominous area of fog. Then follows the unsettling encounters with the dark statue as two of the three venture into the strange physics-defying cloud. Once the locals know where you’ve wandered to, the chances of leaving are gone.
Watching The Shrine, I could’ve sworn that it’d turn out to be just another cheesy slasher film that tries to be hip, but coming out of it, I was pleasantly surprised as to how much attention to detail was given to the build up of events. And oh yes, there may be a little plot twist in there somewhere. The second half of the film is when all the fun begins. Bloody rituals and man hunts… Might I add that there is actually no real nudity in the film, unlike most of its horror genre buddies?! Kudos to them.
The film dances around the classic trope of “curiosity killed the cat,” but it carries on a narrative that is in good bloody taste. I’ve heard fans say they see Sam Raimi inspired shots in the film, and I can kind of concur with that statement. I personally see some resemblance to HOSTEL-like bloodshed. At times I felt like my own foot was being cut up!
Our young protagonists, Carmen, Sara, and Marcus, quickly realize that this investigative journalism business ain’t no walk in the park (especially being Americans in creepy foreign lands). Their encounter with the statue stayed in my mind, though. It is shot so personally and quietly that it makes you question. The strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown, they say. With all intentions, this film here misdirects and tricks us into believing one evil, and then another. My only protest to The Shrine would be the acting, but it’s so okay that it just gets swept under the rug by the awesome turn of events near the end.
The Shrine definitely strikes a strong chord with us. Knautz’s horror is a well-crafted film that is worth the time. Seek it out if you dare…