DIR: JON KNAUTZ
STARRING AARON ASHMORE, CINDY SAMPSON, MEGHAN HEFFERN
It’s funny the things you can pick up in Poundland. Whilst looking for something wholly unrelated I stumbled upon this title in the Halloween DVD section of my local pound shop. Normally I wouldn’t even waste a quid on the kinds of titles they stock, but sandwiched between cheapo editions of Halloween 2 and 3 this caught my eye. Realising it was an Arrow films release I thought ‘what the hell?’ and threw it in the basket. And I’m glad I did. Far from the cheap pseudo satanic Hostel knock off it could have been, The Shrine turned out to be a solid, thoroughly entertaining fright flick that I would have been happy to pay a tenner for.
Carmen (Sampson) is a young, over- zealous journalist looking for the story that will make her name. Against her editors wishes she embarks on a quest to uncover the truth behind a local missing persons case. Taking her assistant Sara (Heffern) and her photographer boyfriend Marcus (Ashmore) along for the ride, she heads for rural Poland to discover the truth. The hostility of the locals, and a mysterious thick fog in the woods all suggest that they should turn around and go home. But they insist on sticking around and soon find themselves up to their necks in ritual sacrifice and demonic possession.
The first part of the movie feels and plays a lot like Hostel leading the viewer to believe they are heading into another xenophobic euro torture film. But instead of going down that road it takes a supernatural turn that alters expectations and takes us down a more unusual and entertaining path. Once the group discover a thick, strange fog in the centre of the forest things become far more sinister and unnerving, and the film begins to build to a brutal, and surprising finale.
The Shrine doesn’t offer much in the way of new ideas and it borrows heavily from ‘The Exorcist’ at times. The opening stages will turn a few people off, and the acting has a slightly rushed feel about it; a common issue in low budget flicks where they don’t have the time to prepare. But it is knowing and unashamed about its influences, and well executed enough to lift itself above the pack. It creates a genuinely creepy atmosphere and the scenes inside the fog are particularly well done, generating a real sense of rising dread. There is plenty here for gorehounds too, as the scenes of sacrifice and confrontation do not flinch, and are gleefully bloody and brutal. It also manages to throw a few twists and turns into its tale to keep it from becoming too derivative and predictable.
The Shrine may not be the most original film out there, and is certainly not shy about its inspirations. But as a straightforward shocker it works extremely well, and is far more effective than most of the bigger budget releases that play on the same sort of subject matter. For the less than princely sum of one whole pound, it more than returned my investment!