Horror movies about cultists. I’ll admit – I have a soft spot for them. So as I was perusing my Netflix account for new goodies to watch, I happened upon this little number. Then I noticed that it’s made by the same people who brought us Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Interest… piqued. Then I read on and found out that it takes place in rural Poland. A Polish-based cultist horror made by the people behind Jack Brooks??!?!? GIMME! *grabby hands*
Before you run right about and buy the movie based on that Jack Brooks comment – be warned. The Shrine looks, acts, and feels nothing like the amazing, practical-FX funhouse that was Monster Slayer. Where that film is goofy and tongue-in-cheek, The Shrine is earnest and genuine. Where that film wanted you to laugh and slap your knee, The Shrine wants you squirming uncomfortably in your seat. Me? I’m thoroughly impressed that they’ve pulled both very different styles off so well. These guys – Jon Knautz and Trevor Matthews – are ones to keep an eye on.
The Shrine stars Cindy Sampson as Carmen (Supernatural‘s Lisa) and Aaron Ashmore (Smallville‘s Jimmy Olsen) as Marcus, a couple who decide to work on their relationship issues… by going on an excursion to Poland to find out why some backpackers have gone missing. Yes, that sounds silly, but I promise it pays off eventually. There they uncover unfriendly locals, a strange cult, dead bodies with masks nailed onto their faces, and a bizarre area of dense fog that doesn’t move and holds a seriously disturbing demon statue. It only gets weirder from there.
There are genuine frights here – no lame jump-scares (the demon statue itself being one of the best) – and lots of gore. There’s also some nice touches – including a pair of surprising twists, suspenseful and bloody violence (without going to the extremes), and the way in which the language is used to add to the drama. There are no subtitles in The Shrine, because none of the main characters speak Polish – so when they encounter the “cult,” they can’t understand a word being said and have no idea what’s about to happen. It’s a simple and effective technique to build the confusion and suspense, and it works quite well here.
Try not to give in to the urge to hit FF or Eject in the first 30 minutes (which are not impressive at all)… and you will be rewarded. If nothing else, you’ll enjoy the soundtrack by Ryan Shore (nephew to famed composer Howard Shore) – which received a 2012 Grammy nomination for “Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media.” That’s right – this little horror movie scored a Grammy nom. That’s how surprisingly good it is. ‘Nuff said.