I put off watching this film off for a while, for no particular reason, but it was always on my radar. I love the concept, anything with cultists and the supernatural has got so much scope in my mind, and the aesthetics from both the box art and the various screenshots I have seen over time made the film look great.
Sadly, from the first 10 minutes of the disc spinning I knew this movie was going to be something of a disappointment to me, and whilst it had its moments, a thin atmosphere, unlikable set of characters and a story which had all the surprise of a present wrapped in cling-film made this film somewhat tedious to watch.
The plot follows a team of journalists who, despite better judgement, follow up on a lead when investigating a missing person’s case. With the usual bullshit about how the police are doing nothing – despite the victim’s journal telling them his exact last known location, the journalists take it upon themselves to solve the case; all for the prestige of course. Their hunt takes them to a remote village in Poland where, upon their arrival, they are confronted by hostile locals, a rather obvious cultist church and a mysterious shrine which sits shrouded in a perpetual mist. Curiosity gets the better of the group and before long they become the subject of a witch hunt courtesy of the village’s clergy.
The most frustrating thing about ‘The Shrine’ is that there are about 25 opportunities passed up to get out the situation before it’s became hostile, even though the threat is telegraphed a mile off. Despite the whole investigation premise there isn’t any real investigation, they literally go, and then get into trouble. Indeed the group don’t seem interested in documenting anything despite there being an open cultist community adorned with weird totems and symbols. The film seems intent on smashing through scenes and exposition at the expense of atmosphere or tension, hell even the spattering of jump-scare attempts come completely out of no-where they fail to miss their mark. This lack of though is also true of the sets and cinematography which see many of the films key scenes in broad daylight and/or full set lighting. No use of shadows, no lingering darkness, no mystique, just a pitiful selection of cast looking like a bunch of muppets in clichéd cultist getups in broad daylight in the woods. It’s a shame really because the acting, by the support cast, wasn’t too bad at all and the gore sequences they were involved in were on point also. The acting by the main cast wasn’t bad, but their characters were not in any way convincing or likable. The tough-guy who just didn’t seem tough, the go-getter journalist who was intent on making whatever decisions were the least popular at the time, and an intern who had literally no reason to come on the poorly conceived ‘investigation’ in the first place. All in all, it’s a bit of a mess.
If there is one saving grace to the movie it is that it has a couple of creepy moments. The section where the group first encounter the shrine is particularly well done with some lingering shots of the deity guaranteed to give people the chills. The ritual sacrifice practiced throughout is bloody and does have a degree of context, although, had more care been taken to give these scenes a more substantial build up, the effect could have been even greater.
Overall ‘The Shrine’ is a concept squandered. Rather than see the film mature into something in its own right it quickly turns into a by-the-numbers average horror with little to no re-watch value. This is definitely one for your ‘on-demand’ subscription service, if at all.