A young journalist and friends travel to a remote village in Poland to find out more about a string of tourists disappearing in the area. Upon their arrival they’re greeted by hostile locals and a religious cult willing to do anything to keep visitors away from the strange fog emanating from the forest.
What I liked:
I wasn’t expecting much going in but the story surprised me a lot and I liked it. It was very atmospheric and creepy. The reporter Carmen, her cameraman and boyfriend Marcus, and her colleague Sara, come to this village to find out more about a guy that went missing here while his luggage was found at an airport he never even visited. They read the guys journal and see that he spoke of a strange fog sitting in one spot in the forest next to the village he’d been in. When they arrive at the village they’re met with hostility from the locals who just want them to leave. Instead, they sneak into the forest at night and Carmen and Sara enter the fog.
Inside they see a strange statue of a demon holding a heart. We never get to see Saras experience but with Carmen we see that the statue is supernatural. She looks at it and takes a picture of it, then moves to the other side of it to take another picture. When she looks up at it again she sees that the statue has turned its head towards her. The eyes of the statue then start to bleed and the stone heart in its hand starts to beat. The group exits the forest where they again encounter the villagers. The trio is captured and it is then determined that Carmen and Sara will be unwilling participants in a ritual sacrifice. Sara is executed first when she’s stripped and dressed in a gown and has an ornamental mask with spikes protruding from the eye area hammered into her skull. Marcus, who was being made to dig his own grave elsewhere, escapes and arrives to save Carmen and the two escape.
They break into a families home in an attempt to steal their truck so that they can finally leave. This is where the movie reveals its twist. While inside with the family, Carmen begins to hallucinate that everyone is a demonic creature and after her. She retreats to another room where Marcus follows. Marcus finds himself alone in the room and trapped as the doors are locked. He then hears the family screaming as they’re being brutally killed. Once he’s finally able to leave the room he’s attacked by Carmen, whos possessed. The rest of the villagers arrive and proceed to execute the same ritual that they performed on Sara on Carmen. Unfortunately Carmen manages to kill a few of them in the process. Marcus ends up assisting the villagers in their ritual when he realizes what’s been happening all along.
The twist was the the villagers were actually the good guys. Carmen and Sara, as well as the missing guy and several tourist before him had all entered the forest and looked at the demonic statue, which allows the demon to possess them. The ritual that the villagers performs is the only way to save those who’ve seen it and prevent the destruction and death that the demon causes.
What also played into the creepy atmosphere that isn’t used much today is the lack of subtitles for the parts where the villagers were speaking Polish. It puts you in the same confused state as the other actors because unless you speak Polish as well, you have no idea whats going on or what they’re planning for them. It makes the nature of the rituals they do all the more mysterious and its pretty effective.
I was also a fan of the effects used in this movie. The horror effects were all done practically and they were good and gory. The demonic faces when the women were hallucinating looked like cheap costume masks but they way they were used in the film made it passable. There was a lot of blood and body parts strewn about when Carmen became fully possessed and I thought it added to the fear factor of what she had become and why the villagers had been doing their rituals over the years and their hostility towards outsiders.
What I didn’t like:
The acting ranged from average to awful. The characters gave wooden performances like there was no emotion behind what they were doing. Sometimes I felt like they could be reading from cue cards or something because of their dry delivery. The best acted character was one of the villagers in my opinion. He had more feeling and better delivery in his lines than everyone else.
The Shrine is a surprisingly good movie that flew under the radar, most likely due to the low budget. It’s an ambitious alternate take on the familiar theme in horror movies of demonic possession, or dangerous religious cults. The story is pretty good as well as the special effects, the only thing that brings it down a bit is the mediocre acting. All in all, this is a good movie and worthy of a watch.