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This week’s movie review is the 2010 horror flick The Shrine. It’s currently available on Netflix Instant Watch which is where I found it. It was in my list of “recommended” films because of my interest in The Last Exorcist and a few other horror movies. Here’s the trailer.

You now know more than I did going into this film. Boredom is really the only reason I watched this and the cover art is pretty intriguing. I was expecting a splatter film kind of in the vein of Hostel. I was moderately surprised in a good way that it wasn’t really like that at all. Other than stupid Americans in a strange European country (Poland) and crazy locals that’s pretty much the only similarity. The gore is left to a minimum and the story takes seemingly forever to get to the damn point.

Let's play "Guess which one survives"!

I almost didn’t get to the end of this movie, but I’m honestly glad that I did. After starting with a pretty shocking (to some) scene which involves sharp pointy things, a cult, and some poor dude’s eyes we are magically and happily transported to the shower of our leading protagonist, Carmen. I won’t even begin to get into the politics of placing your female lead in a shower scene as your introduction to a character, this isn’t that kind of blog. The fanboy in me was very depressed that there was a lack of anything so much as side-boob though. That is one of the ways this film really departs from the pack of generic slashers and gore flicks. The singular scene where the two female characters are naked, they remained covered with their hands or with good camera work and there isn’t the sense of fetishized violence. It’s kind of a breath of fresh air in the age of 8 million Saws and Hostels and their 2nd, 3rd and 4th rate rip-offs.

I’m going to try and make this as spoiler-free as possible so bear with me. Our heroine Carmen is an investigative journalist trying to make it big but she keeps getting handed assignments that she doesn’t feel are worth her talents. She comes across an article about a missing persons case of a young man who was last seen in a small Polish town. She starts looking at the case and notices that there have been a few other missing persons in that area in the past 50 years or so and that they all centered around that small town. Carmen is onto something BIG and she knows it, she asks her editor to let her investigate but instead he hands her an article about a farmer losing his bees to colony collapse disorder. Whenever anything bad started to happen all I could think about was “Ugh, that bee article is never going to get written.”

The make-up effects are quite outstanding.

After talking to the mother of the missing backpacker and rummaging around in his belongings that magically appeared in the lost luggage of an airport, Carmen finds his journal. The last entry is in the creepy village and describes some bizarre smoke that hovers over the forest right outside of the town. Carmen, her assistant, Sara, and her photographer boyfriend, book a trip to this spooky village in Poland. Once they get there stuff is you know, Polish and stuff. There’s a weird little girl they try to talk to, and then her dad who’s covered in blood and holding a knife, comes and tells them they need to just get on out of there. Of course they take his advice. Yeah right. They then notice the strange smoke and venture into the woods to check it out. I think we all know it just goes down here from here. In short, once they get in the woods they notice a wall of fog that is poorly rendered. I really don’t know if renting a big smoke machine was just not possible or what. It looks like it was added hurriedly in post-production. Sara in her infinite wisdom walks into the fog, and gets lost. Meanwhile her two supposed friends stand outside wondering if they should go in after her. Carmen decides to go in, being the courageous one, while Marcus stands outside and bravely shouts their names. I’m not going to tell you anything other than the titular Shrine is located at the center of this mist/fog/smoke stuff and it looks pretty cool.

After the two girls find their way out of the fog the locals show up and start a decent chase/running for our lives while being shot at with a crossbow sequence which ends up in them all being put in pain. Our hero girl Carmen starts having some crazy visions after finding the shrine and the prosthetic make-up work in this film is really top notch. Especially in a little film like this. I’m a huge fan of practical over CGI and this movie makes a really good case for that.

The movie really takes a turn near the end that I kind of predicted but it still surprised me. Maybe because I didn’t watch the trailer. I always like when there are multiple antagonists, or where you are led to believe one thing about a group of people in a movie but then it gets completely turned on it’s head in the last act. I have to say this movie delivered on that.

Let's just say this doesn't end well.

If you have an hour and a half to kill, and nothing else catches your eye on Netflix than I suggest giving this movie a shot. It’s not groundbreaking or anything but it’s a good time killer. There is a lot of build up at the beginning that I think almost put me off, and it really got to the point where I said “If something interesting doesn’t happen in the next 5 minutes than I’m putting something else on.” That was right before they got to the edge of the woods. That’s really where the film gets going and starts to become unsettling.

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