Tuesday, 1 March 2011



A pleasantly old-fashioned throwback to unpretentious occult horror pictures, which suffers badly from three incredibly bland leads and a measure of confusion as to whether the villains are actually on the side of good or are just a bunch of deranged religious lunatics. It's no great work, it has the feel of a dozen other direct-to-DVD low-budget co-productions with eastern Europe (in this case Poland), but there are some nicely scary moments and demonic makeup effects to compensate for the slow start and the dull characters.

The Shrine is actually a secret basement temple under a wooden shack in the Polish countryside, where robed nutjobs ritually sacrifice unwary travellers who won't be missed by hammering a Black Sunday mask into their faces. For no reason beyond plot mechanics, a journalist at a Fortean Times-style magazine decides to investigate the most recent disappearance and jets off to rural Poland along with her intern assistant and her equally cardboard photographer boyfriend. But why are the locals so unfriendly? Might the disappearances have something to do with the mysterious column of mist in the fields? And what's with the freaky-looking statue in the middle of it?

The three main characters are so thoroughly flat and uninteresting that it's hard to care much about what happens to them. But even so it's actually not that bad and genuinely frightening in places, particularly with the statue. It is baffling, however, when the robed maniacs stop sacrificing people and start waving crosses and holy water around to defeat the demons. In addition, a lot of the dialogue is in Polish without subtitles, but that works as our trinity of idiot heroes don't speak the language either so we feel as lost as they do. And after the first reels creakily setting everything up, the second half picks up the pace nicely. Generally, you'll have seen a hell of a lot worse.


No comments: