Directed by Jon Knautz
Written by Jon Knautz, Brendan Moore, and 3 more credits »
Starring Aaron Ashmore, Cindy Sampson and Meghan Heffern
Spoiler alert. You’ve been warned.
After a young American backpacker goes missing in Europe, a group of journalists link his disappearance to a remote village in Poland. They travel there hoping to get the story, but as they unravel the secrets behind this mysterious village, they are suddenly pursued by hostile locals. Unable to escape, they soon become the next victims of ritualistic human sacrifice. Forced into the gruesome reality of true survival horror, the journalists soon discover that this village hides a much darker secret than they could ever imagine.
Sampson, Ashmore, and Heffern in one of their many great decision-making moments.
Okay, where did The Shrine come from? This is one of those movies I’ve had in my Netflix queue for months. Why didn’t I watch this sooner? The Shrine is a winner. It’s a rare combination of nice acting, great storytelling, and suffocating evil. Seriously, this is an evil, evil film. The real scares take place in Poland, reminding me once again how terrifying it is to deal with foreigners within horror movie parameters. The cult robes aren’t enough? Throw in some foreigners.
“I have tasted the flesh of fallen angels…” *shudder*
The Shrine isn’t messing around. The evil contained within is ancient and awful in a you’ll-never-get-out kind of way. Once our team of Americans make it to Poland, the last known whereabouts of the missing backpacker, things go downhill so quickly. Quick to explore the foreign countryside, this threesome stumbles upon a creepy village with the standard-issue creepy kid that gives a little too much away. Creepy dad is nearby to scold the kid and creep out our protagonists even more. The Americans are threatened and leave the village as fast as they can. Gripped with the excitement of breaking this mystery open, Carmen (Cindy Sampson), convinces her team to sneak back to the village. This is why foreigners hate Americans.
Honey! The crosses are doing that thing again!
Once they arrive back at the village, they find a swirling dark cloud that seems to be hovering over a section of thick forest. Obviously, if we’ve learned anything from horror movies, it’s that we should always investigate physics-defying clouds in foreign countries. No one knows you’re there and the locals just ran you off – investigate the haunted forest by all means. Sneaking through the dense woods, they finally find the ominous fog. Thinking clearly, the girls want to walk right into the heart of the mist, and they do. If you’re watching with Dolby 5.1, then you’re in for an audio treat. Evil works great in surround. We don’t see Sara’s (Meghan Heffern) experience like we do Carmen’s.
Surrounded by the otherworldly fog, Carmen, discovers a strange statue in the fog. A demon with tiny wings stands alone as a dark sentinel. This is where The Shrine really starts to shine, so I’ll let you experience the real terror on your own. Be prepared for some awesome misdirection, Sam Raimi-inspired shots, priests, disemboweled children, ancient evils, demons, and some surprising help from the locals. In the end, this movie is a statement on the lesser of two evils. Given the circumstances, I would be sacrificing backpackers as well. Enjoy this overlooked horror sleeper and stay away from Poland.