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Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Shrine (2010) Horror Demon

The Shrine (2010) - The film opens with an American traveler strapped down and then brutally sacrificed in a ritual. That quick little start without back story or character development is all that is needed. The next sequence explains it all and sets up the film including the character development needed to get the players where they need to be. Carmen (Cindy Sampson) is an aspiring journalist at a small paper  who has been shunted to the community interest section after stepping on too many toes. She is driven, the kind of reporter who does not give up on a story and this gets her in trouble. It has also strained her relationship with her boyfriend Marcus (Aaron Ashmore), a photographer who wants her to be more present in their relationship when they are together. Carmen not excited about writing about missing bees works in secret with her intern Sara (Meghan Heffern) on a story about missing travelers in Europe, explaining the first scenes. She and Sara recruit Marcus to travel with them to Poland to investigate the area our opening scene victim vanished. Armed with his journal and a whole lot of moxie the trio do one of the scarier things for most Americans, they head to a foreign country to an area where they will not be welcomed. This outer threat is a good way to put the audience on edge.
  Eric Taylor the hiker who disappeared mentions in his journal that there is a strange fog near the village he was visiting at the time of his disappearance. With this knowledge our leads know they are in the right place. The initial trips into the fog were great creepy things. The statue a demon holding a heart is well designed. Carmen after venturing into the fog to find Sara comes across it and there is a nicely chilling scene of her investigating. Both Sara and Carmen make it out of the fog separately and both have seen the statue. This is significant that the two women see the idol but not Marcus and as the story progresses it all becomes clear.
  Children leading you around in a strange place where you can't speak the language should be frowned upon whenever traveling. Our group fresh from the fog are lead by the little girl Lidia (Julia Debowska) to the body of the missing hiker. Going down the dark shed to a place where they could be trapped is never the smart thing.
"Hey guys Eric has to be in one of these"  (didn't like that line)
 They find him and he has a mask with the same symbol of the church. Lidia vanishes and locked them in. The scene does a few things which is always a positive thing in screenwriting. First it reconciles the search for the hiker, he is found and the group can report him dead. Second it adds knowledge about the mask; it attaches to the face deeply so its a spiked mask like in the great film Black Sunday (1960). In that film the masked placed on a witch played by Barbara Steele as a why to trap her evil spirit in the body. Knowledgeable film goers now have a hint about this film. Third it keeps the players in one place long enough to allow the townspeople to catch up to them, making the next chase scene possible. This really is how to approach screenwriting, make your scenes settle something, give some new information and set up something. I always appreciate it when this happens and this film is smartly written by Jon Knautz.
The capture sequence includes another thing I liked but may have accidentally foreshadowed the outcome for some of the character. Carmen apologizes 40 minutes into the film usually that does not happen until it is too late. So what will happen to Carmen. hmmm.
Some of the village back in time things is also a bit weird. I get that these are people who want to stay out of the larger world. They have a secret to hide and don't want strangers coming around. Still some of the clothes and technology implies they never have contact with the outside world. One would imagine there is still need for commerce. Some interaction with the world have to be possible. There is after all a government in Poland. Why is Henryk (Trevor Matthews) using an antique cross bow?
  Brought to the priests, who stares them down. I like that all the polish and there is no translation so they really do not know what is going on. The girls separated from Marcus are brought back down underground and are stripped of their cloths (awful lot of ripping there) so sacrificial dresses that match the coffin people can be put on them. Sara is brought to the alter while Carmen is caged. There is another really good thing going on here as we see Sara the first into the fog is having some really creepy hallucination. The change in her was signified by her vomiting which also foreshadowed the same problem for Carmen.  Set up like poor Eric from the opening she sees monster faces around her Now we see a fuller view of the mask and its worth the wait. We are also starting to understand what is going on. While this is going on Marcus gets to dig his own grave, one of the villagers is questioning their behavior. There is some doubt for the first time that not everyone agrees with there actions.
Slamming spiked masks onto people is really not the way to attract tourists. They will fight back and this is what Marcus does. He manages not only to free himself but Carmen too. Now we are primed for the final sequence. Carmen is throwing up and hallucinating, something in the ether? Chosen so now her body is getting ready? Shouting in English to people who don't understand it is always something that never works. Carmen is seeing demons now so I don't think she is getting out of this. Carmen is freaking out a bit while Marcus is trying to get the keys to a families truck. Shaking house and demons with everyone she looks at. Little kid says she has seen the statue which I am not sure needed to be revealed. At this point the astute audience member could be piecing it together. but I guess the writer felt it was not clear enough. So seeing the statue is what causes the hallucinations and as we see a lot more.
 Significance of rain brings the final third of the film, a classic trope that I notice every time it is used.  The final scenes fighting the demon are great for not being in English.  Really a strength of the film to leave the characters guessing through their circumstances at what they should be doing or trying to relay to those around them. The good demon fight at the end with casualties and close calls all around was really enjoyable.   Henryk who to this point seemed like an antagonist finishes it with Marcus help. The storm ends and the plot is finished.  Next day we learn that Henryk  knows some English and I am begging the screen for him not to try to explain to Marcus about the fog. I have all I need in this story. It is complete and I get it. Let there be a bit of mystery. It is good the explanation was short and in broken English saving me from ridiculing the ending. It is painful when a plot must be was felt to need an explanation when it is over. That should have happened during the film. In this case it was short enough not to detract from what was an enjoyable film. So Even though the IMDB is a bit hard on this film only a 5.6; I give it a hardy recommendation. There is a lot in both the writing and directing by Knautz that really works well. The acting is good and the story very well drawn.

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