“The Shrine” is a 2010 supernatural horror film directed by Jon Knautz. It’s about a reporter that stumbles upon a mysterious and a deadly cult that will stop at nothing to keep a secret from being leaked to the outside world.
“The Shrine” explores a trope that has been extensively covered by H.P. Lovecraft: What happens when you begin screwing around with forces beyond human comprehension? Answer: Mind-shattering insanity and/or a painful death.
The town in the film, Kozki, might not have any inns or hotels, but it does have an extensive supply of ornery, secretive weirdos with sharp knives and bottles of chloroform. All the better to knock out foolish intruders who come around asking questions about the 50-foot dome of fog that’s visible above the treeline.
I wanted to walk a delicate line on this one. Giving away the plot twists that made the film so enjoyable for me would lessen the enjoyment for others, so I’ll pass along the essentials and leave the secrets for viewers to discover for themselves.
Yeah, I’m going to be nice and leave a spoiler free review. You’re welcome!
“The Shrine” follows reporter Carmen, who is hot on the trail of a hot story about a town where American tourists have gone missing. She drags her reluctant boyfriend Marcus and her faithful intern Sarah to an isolated rustic village in Poland where things are not what they seem.
While looking for answers about a missing American tourist the trio is ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse with hostile locals.
Everything that happens in “The Shrine” revolves around the mist that stands in the middle of the forest, just on the outskirts of town. This mist by the way, never dissipates. It never fades away in the sunlight. It’s always there, hanging like an oppressive cloud, watching, patiently waiting for its next victim to enter the woods.
Marcus gets a real bad feeling about all this and refuses to go in to check it out. So the two women venture into the mist without him and are quickly separated. Even stranger, they both run into a large stone demon statue in a clearing located in the center of the woods, but they never find each other until they leave the oppressive wall of fog.
When they look upon the statue, its grotesque gargoyle-like features subtly start to change and it is soon apparent that it is watching them while it stands there, holding a beating stone heart and crying bloody tears.
When the villagers discover that they have seen the statue, out come the friendly neighborhood cultists with crossbows to give them a warm welcome– i.e. throw them into a dungeon for looking upon the face of the statue.
Soon things get real intense as characters begin to hallucinate and become… strange. It’s as though looking upon the statue drives people mad. But why?
With the lines between good and evil blurred, you’ll find yourself asking, just who are the real villains here? What’s the big freaking deal about taking a look at a weird statue? The answers to those questions would spoil the mystery of the movie, so we’re not going to tell you. Deal with it!
One of the most interesting things about “The Shrine” is that it goes against character clichés and stereotypes. In particular, Marcus, Carmen’s boyfriend, is one of the smartest characters to ever appear in a Lovecraftian horror movie. He recognizes when certain things should left well enough alone, he never suggests splitting up to cover more ground and he argues when the others don’t heed his warnings about the ever-growing dread that they’re experiencing.
What’s even more interesting is that he embodies traits that are more commonly associated with the Final Girl archetype; the female survivor of horror films who is innocent (but not naive or stupid) and who often perceives the danger more clearly than her more popular, less intellectual companions and thus survives the final act of the movie. How cool is that?
“The Shrine” is a lean, mean tale that recalls the fog shrouded hamlets cursed by horrific unearthly evils which were brought to life by H.P. Lovecraft. It’s plot is original and unique; a rare bird to find in this age of cinematic remakes, bland re-imaginings, crappy reboots and horrid knockoffs. Check it out! I highly recommend it.