The Shrine is a film I had never heard of before Fin brought it along to HC last week. I always enjoy it when Fin sources something new and niche to bring to the table, as it is always interesting (and in the case of The House of the Devil - terrifying!). However, the cover of this looked like it would put it would put Inside to shame, so I was pretty worried.
Directed by Jon Knautz, who also wrote the film, it is his second full length feature following his 2007 film "Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer" which looks like it is downright awful (although the B-movie fan inside me thinks it may also be amazing), if you were to ask me to judge a DVD by its cover! Unfortunately at times his direction was lacking and I was losing interest, although this may also be due to the fact that half the film is in Polish and the characters make decisions that would put the kids from Friday the 13th to shame.
The main issue I had with the film was that it looked rather cheap, almost like it was made for TV rather than for the cinema. Whilst I understand that this was a low budget film by a second time director this is not an excuse in my opinion, that's part of the staple of horror films and why they are so good for cutting your teeth as a director. With a limited budget the story has to be tighter and you have to think of ways of making things look fresh and interesting. Unfortunately, the direction is staid and half the budget seems to have been spent on the CGI fog/smoke.
All you have to do is look at a film like Kill List which, although it was not completely to my taste and did suffer at times from excess shaky cam, does look mightily impressive and cinematic, thanks to some nice directorial touches, good cinematography and an interesting story. This is all the more impressive given that its budget was only £500,000, half of what Knautz had to play with here. The budget certainly wasn't spent on the actors. The main couple are pretty terrible and you find it hard to believe that they are in a relationship, and as for the "Polish" locals, the less said about them the better. At times they didn't even seem to be attempting to hide their American accents!
That's not to say that this film is a total write off. The scene with The Shrine itself was especially creepy and was actually good at creating tension. There just isn't enough created elsewhere. There is only 1 scene with The Shrine and the scenes with the locals just didn't hang together well enough for me. Maybe it's because the plot twist was a bit telegraphed for me - why would you have half your film in Polish and not provide subtitles unless you were trying to pull the wool over the audiences eyes. Whilst it did add to the sense of the unknown as you were put in the protagonists shoes (although they were so annoying that I was never sympathising or rooting for them!) it just seemed a major flaw unless something else was going on......
The Mario Bava style mask was an interesting touch, although Knautz showed us this in the opening scene and it was difficult to ramp up the gore, or tension, thereafter, and I also liked the very last scene. Unfortunately there just weren't enough scares or tension for a horror film, and it wasn't bad enough to be held up as a cheesy "so-bad-its-good" B-movie. It was in the nothingness in between which, with the exception of the scene with The Shrine itself, is what I felt afterwards. It was an easy enough watch and at under an hour and a half is not going to test your patience, but I just wanted more.
I feel like I may be being overly harsh on this film at times, and I'm sure if we had seen it at the start of season 1 we would all have enjoyed this a bit more. Maybe I'm a bit desensitised, or maybe this was't up to scratch, but after 3 seasons, a few Argento flicks, and even some gore with Inside, this no longer cuts the mustard.