It’s been said before that a good horror movie is contingent upon having a group of idiots making idiotic decisions repeatedly, ultimately resulting in their demise. If we consider The Shrine, a 2010 film centered around an over-ambitious journalist, it should be noted that in some cases, only one of the characters needs to be an idiot, as long as that idiot is the one making all of the decisions.
Carmen (Cindy Sampson) grabs an intern at her company as well as her frustrated boyfriend Marcus (Aaron Ashmore) to go on an unnecessary and potentially career ending wild goose chase to find a person who has been missing in Poland. If you’re wondering while a successful journalist would jeopardize her career to get a slightly more interesting story, you’re likely not the only one, but Marcus offers little in the way of resistance to the much stronger-willed Carmen.
In reading the journal of the missing man, they discover a patch of intense and omnipresent fog, protected by a strange cult of defensive poles, led by their church leader and with a serious lack of social skills. This is somewhat understandable if you consider Poland’s history of foreign visitors, but their insistence only serves to further intrigue Carmen to discover exactly what is hiding inside the fog.
If you are able cut the characters enough of a break to forgive them their flaws, this ranks up as an upper tier horror movie in terms of quality. There isn’t anything special about the writing or acting, but the movie is very aesthetic for a budget of just 1.5 million, and it will grab and hold your attention for the full 80 minute runtime, as any horror movie must. The soundtrack is solid, and actually received a Grammy nomination. Most importantly of all, the ending of the movie is a refreshing change from the cliché of modern horror films.
There is a supernatural element to the film, but the writer seems to have felt that it was best to leave the details unexplained. In my eyes, unless you’re very, very confident in the film, this is the way to go, as leaving things unexplained often allows the viewer to use their imagination, which is more powerful than the often disappointing explanation. This technique of explaining just enough was mastered by Stephen King in stories like Pet Sematary and Storm of the Century.
In a nutshell, the message of this movie is that curiosity is a dangerous thing. Because overly-curious, hard headed individuals might actually find something they were looking for and likely be woefully unprepared to deal with the consequences. The secondary message (This is never intended, but it stretches across most of the horror movie genre) is that if you get in a situation you can’t handle, it’s very important to work on your cardio and running ability. There is a reason why the bad guys always run faster. It’s because they practice it. Don’t be the woefully unprepared good guy.
As a post note, there is a horrible plot hole in this movie, which is revealed by the twist. I can’t get into details about it without spoilers, but let me know if you notice it.