Actors: Aaron Ashmore, Cindy Sampson and Meghan Heffern
Synopsis: A group of journalists investigate the disappearance of a missing backpacker in a small village in Poland, where they discover much more than they bargained for.
From the man who brought you the underrated Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, comes the follow up, and very different in tone horror gem, The Shrine.
The Shrine is a very different movie in terms of story, and is probably one of the most original horror films I have had the pleasure to discover in the last 10 years. While it isn't riddled with non-stop action or Excorcist caliber acting, it is still an effective thrill ride complete with twists and turns that will make you think twice about poking your nose where it doesn't belong.
The film begins with introducing our main characters. Carmen (Played by Cindy Sampson) is a struggling journalist who is being sandbagged by her boss with stories that have next to no bite to them. Her boyfriend/photographer Marcus (Played by Aaron Ashmore) is as supportive as he can possibly be, but something (gruesome dreams included) is driving her towards a story in Poland, where a slew of tourists have mysteriously vanished.
Carmens boss keeps her away from the story as he sees fit, but she is determined to crack it and make her mark so she can finally move up the ranks. She recruits the help of her intern Sara (Meghan Heffern) to defect from their assignment to go to Poland. In turn, she dishonestly drags her boyfriend with them, while he is under the assumption anybody knows where they are, and that the story was assigned to her.
Right away, you don't really like this character, and with good reason. I like this device a lot, as it really makes the sting that the rest of the characters face that much worse. Not giving anything away, the main character of the film slowly shifts into another direction.
The meat of the story really lies within the fictional village of Alvania, where the aforementioned tourists have all gone missing. When our characters arrive, they are definitely not welcomed with open arms. Glares, stares, and even intimidation is used by the seemingly volatile villagers to chase them away from the area. This, of course, does not deter Carmen from getting her story, which she had risked her career for.
The group notice a few very key things about the village. For one, religious markings and non-traditional church culture. The second thing, and most important thing, is a bank of fog settling in the woods. This is where the movie kicks off into a mystery thrill ride.
They weasel their way into the woods, and Sara is the first to step into the fog bank. When she doesn't return, Carmen enters the bank and comes across a devilish shrine, which seems to face itself at her, putting her into a surreal state of mind.
From this point further, it is best to not give more away. All I have to say is that it goes in what you think is one direction, and immediately makes a surprise left turn. The left turn in question is one of the best turns I have seen in any horror driven climax. Its not an M. Night Schizophrenia kind of twist by a mile, but when it happens, you will hopefully be as pleasantly surprised as I was by this little Canadian indie film.
All in all, this is a very straight forward executed and effective horror film. Given the state of modern horror, this ranks above as one of the heavyweights in the genre.
The only complaint I do have with this film is that the acting isn't as fine tuned as I would like. The budget also shines through with a lot of the beginning. I don't know what they used to shoot this film, but it reeks of digital. If this film was given a higher budget int he same creative hands, there's no question it would be popular in wide release.
Give this one a shot. I do realize I may have hyped this film up a lot, so I apologize in advance if it doesn't blow your mind. This isn't a Citizen Kane of horror, but for the year 2010, it is among the top ranking.
The Shrine is available on Netflix Instant streaming and DVD via Amazon. Arrow Video in the U.K. has also released an all region Blu Ray that will play on your U.S. devices.