Determined to launch her career, work driven reporter Carmen (Cindy Sampson) believes she has the story of the year when she starts looking into the mysterious disappearance of an American backpacker in Poland.
With her photographer boyfriend Marcus (Smallville’s Aaron Ashmore) and a young newspaper intern (Meghan Heffern from The Fog remake) in tow the trio head for the small village of Alvania the missing man’s last location where they meet the extremely unfriendly locals and witness some very strange religious leaders dressed in ceremonial garb.
Threatened and afraid the friends beg Carmen to give up however she is more intrigued than ever and convinces them to head into the woods where a strange unexplainable fog seems to be emanating completely covering the surrounding area.
It is in this mist that the true evil lies and as the girls head in to see for themselves they set about a catastrophic chain of events that lead them on the same path as the tourist they are tracking, a path of terror, torture and torment.
After reading that synopsis many of you may be thinking that you have seen all that The Shrine has to offer before and from its obvious opening that conclusion could be made however as the story unfolds and the horror increases it transpires that The Shrine is much more original and innovative than it first appears.
Courting the clichés of tourist horrors such as Hostel, And Soon The Darkness and A Perfect Getaway, Jon Knautz movie lulls the viewer into a false sense of security making them believe they know what’s coming. From the missing backpacker to the intrepid reporter to the hostile locals and strange customs all the clues are here to lead us to the usual xenophobic conclusion.
Luckily The Shrine is a lot cleverer and interesting, and just when you think your expectations are about to be met the plot and the style takes a savage twist into the unknown figuratively and literally, with the characters entering the unnerving and unnatural mist to discover the scary monstrous statue that lies within.
From here the horror increases and director Knautz who co-wrote the story with Trevor Matthews and Brendan Moore jump genre’s and confound our expectations, keeping us on our blood-soaked toes until the action packed final act where all is revealed to us and the confused characters.
From the unnerving ritual sacrifice that opens the movie to Carmen’s disturbing dream sequence, The Shrine is full of eerie moments and nasty shocks. Getting gorier as it goes along, there are some excellent effects and although this is not a big budget movie it doesn’t show it.
Knautz the man behind horror comedy Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer proves that given an original idea horror doesn’t have to be boring.
Blending torture porn with tourist terror and surreal supernatural surprises The Shrine draws from various horror inspirations, crafting something new and exciting, which is a rare thing in a genre so overrun with remakes and repetition.