Thursday, October 11, 2012

30 Days of Nightmares #15: THE SHRINE (2010)

The Story: An eager reporter follows the trail of a missing person to a Polish village with an ancient curse.

Expectations: I didn't know much of anything about this film when I sat down to watch it.  Director Jon Knautz has made a previous horror movie, 2007's JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER, but I confess I haven't seen it.  The poster art for THE SHRINE has a J-horror look to it, but the Netflix description says it's a serial killer movie.  I figured what the hell...

Reaction: The movie starts with a pre-credit sequence in which Adrien Grenier, the actor who plays Vincent Chase on HBO's Entourage, is tortured and killed.  Depending on your opinion of Entourage, this might not be a bad way to start a movie... though, if you've seen Encoutrage, it could be a bit hard to take Grenier's screams seriously.  For me, it played like a tongue-in-cheek cameo, reminding me of the tacked-on opening of From Dusk Till Dawn 2, where Bruce Campbell and Tiffani Amber-Thiessen are killed by a bunch of digital bats in an elevator.  Proof that stunt casting is often too cute for its own good.  To be fair, it's not Adrien Grenier's fault that I can't watch him in anything without thinking of Vinny Chase.... I digress.

The next hour of THE SHRINE follows a headstrong reporter (you know the type -- this character cliche goes back to the screwball comedies of the 1930s), her timid-but-pretty young assistant (she practically has "canon fodder" tatooed on her forehead) and her reluctant boyfriend as they travel to Poland in search of Vinny Chase.  When they get there, Poland looks a lot like rural Pennsylvania.  The locals are stereotypical backwoods freaks, and the three characters parry and joust with them in predictably boring fashion.  Eventually they wander into a mysterious white fog bank, which has been hovering on the edge of town for at least several months, and find a bleeding demon statue.  Next thing you know, the locals and trying to kill them, as part of some sort of religious ritual involving the witch mask from Mario Bava's BLACK SUNDAY (1960).  The details are fuzzy, because everyone is speaking Polish.  (At this point in the film, my wife opined that the filmmakers probably made a conscious decision to avoid subtitles, assuming that a lack of information would add to the suspense.  Mostly, however, the lack of information was annoying.)

For me, the film was utterly tiresome until a moment when the main character started hallucinating demons.  Language barrier or not, it was instantly clear that she'd been somehow infected by the bleeding statue.  Soon after, she went into full-on Linda Blair mode and the final third of the film became an extended demonic possession / exorcism sequence.  This part of the film is handled so well that I couldn't help wondering why the filmmakers didn't cut to the chase a bit sooner.  Obviously the strengths of everyone involved play better to an in-your-face monster movie than to a slow-building mystery.  (So maybe I should be watching JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER?)  It's a solid third act... Too bad it couldn't erase my memory of the first two.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: More than fifty years after BLACK SUNDAY, it is still just as hard to watch someone get a spiked mask hammered into their face.  (There are only two spikes in this particular mask... but that doesn't help.)


  1. This sounds interesting, looking forward to checking it out, I mean it sounds a bit cliched, but what the hell.

  2. A bit cliched, certainly... but a big part of being a horror fan is being willing to sit through the stuff that doesn't work in order to find the stuff that does. There's 1/3 of an interesting horror movie here...