The Shrine has earned my respect as a horror movie by relying heavily on makeup effects. Factoring out the Evil Dead remake, you don’t really see a lot of that, y’know? Sure, it looked cheesy, but that’s the fun of it! Retro-glamor with a dash of horrific mutilation and tides of blood. The premise of the movie is really neat, and the scares are viable whether you laugh or scream at goofy looking monster masks.
Carmen is a journalist looking to find her next big scoop. She thinks she already has it; several disappearances of European tourists in the Polish village of Alvania. After acquiring a journal from one of the tourists and being haunted by his bloody-eyed visage in a dream, she decides that she’s going to Poland. Not without conscripting the aid of Sara the intern and Marcus the estranged boyfriend first, of course.
In Alvania, they find an enormous patch of dense, dark, unmoving fog, as described in Eric Taylor’s journal. The locals don’t take very kindly to the presence of strangers, and are quick to turn them away from the fog. Carmen notices that the fog is the only part of Alvania that the townsfolk are safeguarding, so naturally, it must be where the tourists are. The team sneaks over to the fog to investigate, and Carmen and Sara go on in. Marcus stays back, because fuck that noise. It’s spooky.
It’s all downhill from there. The townsfolk capture the lot and murder Sara with a ritual that involves hammering a mask with large iron spikes where the eyes would be into her head. The same masks had been seen earlier in a room full of corpses. Clearly the fog has some greater significance if it would incite such an occult reaction. On the brighter side of things, I was relieved to find that the Alvanians didn’t function as a one-dimensional antagonist force due to the snazzy twist near the climax. Horror movies don’t have a lot of room for fluid morality; you have to appreciate the little things. Anyway, we’re nearing spoiler territory, so I’m gonna have to cut this short.
Overall, I’d consider The Shrine a decent horror flick. It’s not radically original, but it has its own unique charm, particularly with the horror evoked by
the iron masks. That could just be personal preference talking, but faceless masks always seem to get under my skin.
Horror Movie A Day thought The Shrine had a tactically boring startup with a scare-fest second half, and I’m inclined to agree. As far as pacing goes, setting your audience up with low expectations and then bringing out the big guns works wonders. That specifically may or may not have been planned, but it works all the same. Here’s the alt review for a more detailed look at The Shrine: http://horror-movie-a-day.blogspot.com/2010/10/shrine.html