A group of young journalists investigate a cult said to practice human sacrifice, but their ambitious ways may lead them to becoming the cult’s next victims.
The Shrine is the type of film that comes complete with lots of familiar horror tropes an avid genre lover will recognize. You’ve got the mysterious disappearance of a traveler under mysterious circumstances, as well as a team of people seeking answers as to the details of those circumstances. You’ve got a remote village in a foreign land populated by strange people who raise an eyebrow or two thanks to their mysterious beliefs and practices. Scares, jumps, and mysteries abound as the protagonists attempt to make sense of it all.
Given those facts, the plotline of The Shrine no doubt seems like something you’ve seen a time or ten before. This is especially the case after the film opens on a fittingly shocking note, leading you to believe you already know where it’s going. However, it’s best to go into your viewing experience with an open mind, as there’s actually a lot more to this film than meets the eye. The Shrine is a Canadian horror movie directed by Jon Knautz (The Cleaning Lady). It stars Cindy Sampson, Aaron Ashmore, Ben Lewis (Stir of Echoes: Homecoming), and Meghan Heffern.
If you’re a fan of horror movies that are great at absolutely leading you to believe you know what’s going on only to surprise you a couple of times along the way, you’ll dig The Shrine. There are definitely elements of other “traveler in distress” films you’ve seen over the course of your life as a horror fan (like Hostel and its sequels). However, there are enough twists and turns you probably won’t expect to keep you very pleasantly on the edge of your seat as well.
Director Knautz does an excellent job of building suspense and creating an appropriately dark, intense atmosphere for viewers to sink their teeth into. Some of the visuals and scenes in The Shrine – including a couple of otherworldly dream sequences that definitely hit the mark -- are genuinely scary and very unnerving. There’s also plenty to see for genre fans who love their gore, shocks, and special effects. This isn’t a big budget film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s so resourcefully done that it’s easy to forget that.
Certain creative choices as to how the film was handled make it easier than average to put yourself into the shoes of the protagonists. The characters are well fleshed out for a movie of this type, and the cast turns in a collection of well-executed performances. You’re not left feeling like they’re making decisions you would never make if you were somehow plunged into the same set of circumstances.
Knautz also elected to have the locals who populate the remote Polish setting actually speaking Polish. However, he does not clarify what they’re saying for the audience with subtitles as one might expect in a Polish horror movie. Unless you happen to speak Polish yourself, you’re left to make sense of what’s going on the same way the protagonists do – by analyzing body language, tone, and context. This definitely helps add to the sense of displacement, as well as helps to put the viewer right there in the middle of the action.