Saturday, 13 February 2016

Blu-Ray Review - The Shrine

Previously published on Front Room Cinema in 2011

As you read the synopsis of The Shrine you could be forgiven for thinking that you have seen this film countless of times before; the usual horror cliche of a group of young journalists investigating a spate of mysterious disappearances in a Strange European location no longer sounds appealing to me in a world where Hostel part three exists. Far from being your typical gruesome and pointless torture porn horror, The Shrine throws up enough unexpected turns to keep your eyes glued to the screen and whilst none of the ideas are particularly new or inspiring, the way they are included in the story is original enough to make this an enjoyable watch for horror fans.

A couple on the rocks; Carmen (Cindy Sampson) and Marcus (Aaron Ashmore), are joined by Carmen's journalist sister, Sara (Meghan Heffern), to see if they can get the scoop of a lifetime to boost her ailing career, and set off to Poland unaware of the dangers that await them. Hostile villagers, bizarre smoke above the forest and terrifying statues are just the start of the unnerving situations the group encounter and, up until the final part of the film, the audience are left in the dark as to the villager's motives. All three of the characters make a number of questionable decisions, as is usually the case with horror films, but thanks to the story's unique approach to the subject matter of bizarre cults I found myself able to overlook these minor flaws.

Some of the acting does lack conviction but for the most part the performances are solid enough to be believable. Trevor Matthews stood out as an actor to watch for the future, his role as the steadfast villager who warns the trio to leave the area adds an air of menace to the proceedings as he is constantly bristling with aggression and at times he appears genuinely intimidating.

I'll admit that there were a few startling moments that did cause the occasional shudder, and people who are easily scared would do well to watch The Shrine with company, or at least a cushion or two to hide behind. If however you are like me and thrive on a good scary film, make sure that your surround sound is turned up loud - the creepy atmospherics add to the build up of tension and enhance the films eerie feeling that will leave you unsettled and on edge.

There have been a number of comparisons made to all kinds of horror films ranging from The Wicker Man to The Evil Dead but The Shrine does have enough innovation to stand on its own two feet. Jon Knautz who wrote and directed The Shrine has borrowed ideas from the classics and given them a fresh spin to ensure that this is something that horror fans will not have encountered before. In a world full of endless remakes and rehashed ideas it is great to see an innovative horror film and although it is not quite the classic it could have been, The Shrine is certain to obtain a cult following.

3/5