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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 290: The Shrine

The Shrine
Shrine on, you crazy diamond

Don't go to a foreign country. Don't leave your state. Don't even leave your couch. The world of horror has taught us that going anywhere is a recipe for a disaster. Help is not coming and no one will ever find you. That's being a little dramatic, but it does occasionally happen in real life, which makes these movies more plausible. Granted, you're not going to be horribly murdered visiting the Hockey Hall Of Fame in Toronto, although that would be an awesome horror movie. Most of these travel horror movies take place in remote locations and require the main characters to be incredibly dumb. It's a a tried and true horror recipe.

The Shrine is a 2010 horror movie starring Cindy Sampson (Swamp Devil, Supernatural) as journalist Carmen and Aaron Ashmore (Smallville, Warehouse 13) as her boyfriend and photographer Marcus. Carmen gets wind of a story where a young American man named Eric Taylor disappeared while traveling in Poland and wants to investigate. She also mentioned that his luggage showed up in the Czech Republic despite never traveling there. Her boss does not give her permission to go and instead gives her a story covering bees that have gone missing. Carmen and her intern Sara (Meghan Heffern, Chloe, The Fog) visit Eric's mother and borrows his journal. Ignoring her boss, Carmen takes Sara and Marcus to Eric's last known whereabouts: a small village in Poland called Alvania. The find the villagers to be extremely secretive and unwelcoming. They talk to a little girl and show her a picture of Eric. She shows shock and fear at the picture, but a farmer named Henryk (Trevor Matthews, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, Teen Massacre) stops her from speaking to the group. Walking around, they take note that the villagers all treat their religious leaders like royalty. The walk out to the woods where a strange, unmoving fog hangs over the land. Sara disappears into the fog and Carmen goes in to find her. She comes across a large statue of a demon holding a heart. The statue's eyes begin to bleed and the heart starts to beat. Both Carmen and Sara escape the fog and begin to hear strange whispering. As they head for their car, the little girl from before brings them to a hidden tomb that contains the bodies of several people, including Eric. Each body has a white robe on and a strange mask that cannot be removed. They are locked in the tomb by the little girl and have to pry the door open to escape. They are attacked by the villagers who capture both Sara and Carmen while Marcus is forced to dig a grave. The girls are taken to a sacrificial tomb and Sara is strapped to an altar. Her wrists and Achilles' heels are slashed and one of the masks is forcibly placed on her face, killing her. While trapped, Carmen begins to see demonic faces on the villager's bodies. Marcus is able to escape his captor and rescues Carmen, fleeing into the woods. Will they be able to escape, what really happened in that fog, and why are the villagers killing people?

Making her wear white after Labor Day? You monsters!

Have you ever watched a movie and picked out scenes that were similar to 4 or 5 other movies? I kept doing that while watching The Shrine, more so than any other horror movie to date. It doesn't help that they remind me of much better horror movies that I'd rather be watching. The general torture of Americans in a foreign land, combined with the Achilles cutting scene reminded me of Hostel. The foreign land with a weird , archaic religion is like The Wicker Man. On top of not being completely original, the movie's biggest problem is that the story is just not very good. There are a lot of holes in the plot that really stuck with me. If the villagers know that going into the fog is a bad idea, why don't they warn anybody? Put a sign up, erect a road block, tell foreigners not to go in there. Something, anything to avoid this apparently constant problem. Another issue I had was the character of Sara. It was blatantly obvious from the beginning that she was there just to be killed. She didn't have a lot of development or even a love interest. A good amount of dialogue in the movie is in another language (I'm assuming Polish). Normally, I much prefer movies taking place in another country to be in it's native tongue. The problem is, there are no subtitles, so I have no clue what is going on. If giving away part of the plot is an issue, just rewrite things to keep the story vague.

I kept waiting for the story to lead to something important and that only happened in the last 10 minutes or so. There is a decent twist in the movie, you just have to wait an absurdly long time for it to happen, which is a shame because the twist was far more interesting that a majority of the movie. The movie touches on a few too many horror subgenres, including torture, possession, and exorcism, which leave the movie without a solid identity. There is a good amount of action and violence, with the final scene upping the ante in terms of blood and gore. If the rest of the movie had been like the last 10 minutes, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. The acting is fine with no real complaints. Composer Ryan Shore actually received a Grammy nomination for the soundtrack, but I honestly don't remember anything about the music in this movie.

"Sup, baby. What's a demon gotta do to get your number?"

A lot of things in The Shrine just feel forced and rushed. The story progresses only because the characters make terrible decisions. There are a lot of plot holes and general annoyances that are too much to ignore. The story is all over the place and hard to focus on, especially since a lot of the dialogue is not in English. There is a good amount of violence and some great gore at the end, but it's just not enough to make you want to sit through everything else. The Shrine desperately wanted to be all sorts of different horror movies and we end up with something unoriginal and not terribly fun to watch.


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