The Shrine Blu-ray Review
Written and directed by Jon Knautz
2010, Region B (PAL), 85 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 27th February 2012
Aaron Ashmore as Marcus
Cindy Sampson as Carmen
Meghan Heffern as Sara
Ben Lewis as Eric Taylor
Connor Stanhope as Dariusz
“One of the most frightening movies of the last decade” and “Brings fear back to the horror genre” scream the Blu-ray cover quotes, which sets the bar pretty high for any film. So it was nice then that The Shrine offers one of the biggest perks in reviewing movies: that great feeling when you pop in a film expecting little or nothing from it and end up being thrilled and entertained. The Shrine is the latest offering from the Arrow Films stable and an unmitigated pleasant surprise.
When investigative journalist Carmen stumbles on a story about backpackers going missing in Eastern Europe, she wants to follow it up. But her boss has other plans and wants her to cover something much more mundane, leaving her with the only natural movie choice: don’t listen to him and run off with the aid of friends to snoop around. Three plane tickets to Poland later and Carmen, boyfriend Marcus and the office intern Sara are descending on the strangely stuck-in-the-past village of Alvania, last know location of the missing travelers.
In the journal of the most recently AWOL victim (can we call him a victim yet? I guess so), the trio reads the last entry concerning a mysterious tower of fog that lurks in the forest at the edge of the village. When they try to investigate the fog, they are accosted by hostile villagers and sent packing. Where any normal person would heed the warning from knife-wielding Polish malcontents, Carmen convinces her friends the best thing to do would be to sneak back and take a look.
What is immediately apparent from The Shrine is that it plays out every horror movie cliché to the letter. Disappearing backpackers, remote location, hostile villagers and bizarre rituals are all things that have been presented in countless films. And you’ll be totting them up in your head to reach a conclusion that will be completely wrong.
The film borrows heavily from a number of other movies including Evil Dead, The Exorcist, and any film where the protagonists end up in a village full of rednecks that butcher their animals on the front porch. Considering the film is set in Poland and considering I’m not an expert on the Polish tongue, I’m almost 100% certain the language these people are speaking isn’t even close to Polish.
Minor gripes aside, The Shrine ends up being a bit of a cracker. At a shade over 80 minutes the pacing is brisk, while the small group of central characters is enough to invest in and actually care whether they die or not. The special effects range from some great practical prosthetic work, a generous helping of gore, some decent jump scares to some slightly dodgy CGI fog. And when it comes down the final 15 minutes, it offers a twist that is as original as it is enthralling.
So yeah, it’s not “one of the most frightening movies of the last decade”, but it is a damn fine horror film that’s definitely worth a viewing.
Video and Audio:
The Blu-ray 1080p transfer is flawless and shows the detail in the, ahem, Polish countryside to great effect. Colours are rich and natural with no sign of any issues. The DTS-HD master audio is similarly impressive, creating an encompassing aural experience.
Surprisingly for Blu-ray and even more surprisingly for Arrow, which is known for incredible extras, there are none.
*Note: The screenshots on this page are publicity stills and not a reflection of the Blu-ray image.*