Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Shrine (2010)

Carmen (Cindy Sampson) is a journalist whose work is consuming her life and driving away her boyfriend Marcus (Aaron Ashmore). To make matters worse, her editor keeps giving her fluff pieces to work on instead of the hot lead she'd rather investigate: a backpacker who went missing in rural Poland. Luckily we saw him get crucified by some weirdo cultists in the opening scenes, so we know he's come to no good. Anyway, Carmen's ambitious and drags Marcus off to Poland to investigate with her and a younger gumshoe (Meghan Heffern), without telling anyone where they're going.

Before long, our cute 20-something Americans (in reality, Canadians with Canada standing in for America and Poland- we're the chameleon of countries!) are traipsing around hickski-ville Poland and having run ins with bizarreski Poles in a small town where the priests are menacing, the hickskis are more menacing, and there's a creepy plume of black smoke billowing in the distance. As they wander to investigate, they discover it's more like a wall of fog enveloping everything- a nice creepy effect. Inside the fog, they come across a big Pazuzu-style demon statue that bleeds motor oil out of its eyes and seems to have a strange power over the girls. Here, things start to pick up.

The Shrine is a solid little horror movie that's more of a "slow burn" than a "wild ride". It's got plenty of nice touches, like leaving the voluminous Polish spoken unsubtitled so we don't know what's going on, or using primarily practical effects, which have more weight and solidity than the digital sort. When it gets gory, it does so with vigor. Shit gets all fucked up.

In general, the movie starts out in Hostel territory (minus the commentary on globalization), passes through Children of the Corn/ Black Sunday land, and spends the third act in Evil Dead-ville with a big stop in Exorcist Town. It's not to say that the thing's unoriginal- there's enough unique touches that you don't feel like you're watching a rip off- but it's a genre film and, as such, is more concerned with hitting its beats than making deeper points about religion, culture clashes, or anything else. It's written at about the level of a comic book. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I just don't understand why we can't get relatively solid genre pictures like this into actual theaters instead of sending them right to DVD? Isn't it more fun to watch them with friends in a theater after a few beers?

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