Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Blu-Ray review: The Shrine

Directed By Jon Knautz 

Starring Cindy Sampson, Aaron Ashmore, Meghan Heffern, Ben Lewis 

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. 

The advertisers did a great job with this movie. I bought into the spookiness of the plot based upon the poster designs that I saw, namely the one with the statues head in place of the girl’s head, with blood staining the top of her dress; creepy! Sadly, the movie didn’t live up to the marvelous poster campaign. 
You’ll recognise the synopsis; a plucky journalist researches into a spate of missing people, all from the same area in Poland . Against her editor’s wishes, she goes out there with her boyfriend (who’s a photographer) and her intern. They find the usual surly locals, an odd village and a strange mist that hangs over a forest. They visit the forest and thus begins their journey into terror. 
There’s little characterisation. We’re left with the actor’s interpretations of what appears to be a lazy screenplay. Whilst Aaron Ashmore doesn’t disappoint the rest of the cast don’t get an opportunity to shine. 
The Shrine reminded me of an odd take on M Night Shylaman’s The Village; it had that vibe about it.
It was clear that the filmmakers wanted a mash-up of horror movie styles to throw off the audience but the feeling was that we were watching a film that wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. There are elements of occult movies, survival horror movies and possession movies (and The Village, of course). The end possession part was the part I actually enjoyed and had the film echoed The Last Exorcism I probably would have enjoyed the overall movie more. 
The ending is pretty good but it’s too little, too late again as what has gone on before hasn’t been too good. What spoils the end is a creature that reminded me of the ending of We Craven’s Deadly Blessing. The creature in the latter, older movie was added in on behest of the producers and I wonder how much intervention was made with this plot.

The choice not to subtitle the Polish characters speech was a brave but strange move. Putting us in the same situation as the characters, as in not knowing what being said was ended up as equally frustrating and suspenseful. It was interesting that the main character is a journalist, purely because the writer had an excuse for them being curious where others would have said “I’m not going there”. 
Score in a film is important to me and none of the music impressed me. It helped give the movie a lackluster atmosphere that it didn’t deserve because it is spooky in places. The design sometimes took me out of the movie. Had the screenplay been better written I might not have noticed as much. I’ll give you an example; the closing episodes of the second series of Joss Whedon’s Angel. The cast zip over to a parallel world place called Pylea. Much of the set looks fake and so do the props, but it doesn’t matter because the writing is so damn good and the characters are rich and interesting.  
It’s a great shame as I believe the filmmakers had loftier ambitions for the movie that never got realised due to financial constraints. If the Polish decided to remake this; the opposite of what normally happens, they might do a better job. 

I hate to be negative in reviewing films like this because it at least attempts to be something different to the Hollywood remake/sequel machine, but it just didn’t gel with me. In a genre where we often get recycled content over and over again, the approach to this film, despite it’s own use of genre trappings, is more original than most. It’s ok and has a better second half than first. It’s worth a look.

Score: 5/10

Competition: Win Urban Explorers on Blu-Ray!

The rapidly growing global phenomenon of urban exploration (also known as Urbex or UE), in which thrill-seeking enthusiasts explore the normally unseen or off-limits areas of towns, cities and industrial facilities, provides the unique background for director Andy Fetscher’s chilling survival-horror shocker, Urban Explorers out now on DVD and Blu-ray.

To delve further into this underground world of Nazi catacombs visit the official site:

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Watch a clip at the following link: