Movie Review: The Shrine
Where do I even begin with this one. I guess I'll start where I truly started, skimming netflix. I found this gem of a picture under the horror category. This film should not have been listed under horror, but I'll give them one thing, this picture is horrifying.
We start in another country far away in eastern Europe. It is apparently Poland, but it is set in a city straight out of Shyamalan's The Village. It is eternally the 1800's here, and we are given no reason why. So it is supposed to be Poland, but you can substitute any location far away where they are trapped in the past and can't speak the language.
And when I say you can't speak the language, I mean you are absolutely 100% not allowed to understand it. About 30% of this film's dialog, about 75% of the important dialog overall, is in Polish, without any subtitles. Now, I'm fine with not including subtitles for certain sections of the film if it suits the concept. If you want your audience to feel alienated and alone and uncomfortable there is certainly a place for it. There is something very unsettling about being in a foreign land with no way to communicate or to tell if the new people among you are hostile until they act. However, this has its limits, and this film has met and surpassed them many times over.
This film's overall use of Polish and utter lack of subtitles make everything lack purpose. At least 4 times during this film I turned to my companion and asked, "why is any of this happening?" She agreed in bewildered entrancement that she had no idea what was going on, but we watched the whole thing. I'd say it was like a train wreck, but a train wreck has an explanation. The train goes off the rails, the force of the impact sparks the fuel line, bodies are severed heads roll children cry. It is an awful terrible thing, but you can explain every last horrible part. This film is more like a kielbasa spontaneously erupting into streams of green urine that hit all of your friends and morph them into terrible snake people and then they explode.Not only is it awful, but it is confusing, which makes it so much worse.
The plot, as much as I can recall, is about a reporter named Carmen, played by Cindy Sampson, her intern Sara, played by Meghan Heffern, and Carmen's boyfriend/photographer Marcus, played by Aaron Ashmore. Our reporters are supposed to be reporting on the mass death of Bees in the United States and the traumatic effects this has on crops. This is a legitimate story and has far-reaching repercussions on the world of agriculture. So of course she ignores it to go chasing after a missing persons story in Europe, an area in which she has no friends, no contacts, and no experience. She drags along her intern and her boyfriend.
They find the aforementioned town that inst the village and talk to one little girl for 2 minutes. The natives seem not to trust them and are strangely hostile. They decide that clearly something fishy is going on here and decide to go into the woods without any supplies. They were stopped from entering the woods earlier and choose to ignore these warnings. When they head towards the woods they find a mysterious thick fog.
From the distance the fog looks like a bad static image that was superimposed onto the background and never bothered to be animated, but from close up it looks like a video game with a very bad draw distance, or just what Silent Hill 2 looked like on purpose. For no reason the assistant walks into the fog and disappears. she comes back later with a cut on her face. The cut is brought up once, not explained, and never ever referenced again. The other girl then decides to go into the fog also for some reason. They still don't prepare or anything, and just send her in without tying a rope or anything to her. They apparently went into the wilderness with no supplies whatsoever. In it she finds a big creepy gargoyle statue, but not an awesome one like Goliath. The gargoyle/demon thing is clutching a stone heart that somehow beats and pumps blood. Don't ask me how that works.
Anyway, she also leaves the fog without incident. They find some bodies in coffins wearing death masks of some sort as see in the poster above. They find who is probably the missing person they were looking for and a few others. In the beginning Carmen had said that people had been going missing here for years and their luggage was ending up in other cities. So did they find all the old bodies? Had they been killing others and it was never addressed? None of this will ever be resolved. But then later they are attacked by the angry natives who use wood and knives and also a German gun from World War 2 for some reason. It looked like a Luger to me at least. But regardless, it was the most advanced thing in this entire town. So they get captured and the man and women are separated. The man is made to dig his own grave, apparently, and the woman are stripped and put into what look like first communion dresses, just adult sized. They are brought to the titular shrine and Sara is tied to a stone cross.
She is then ritualistically murdered in a horrible fashion that is at least realistic and gory. And then they go to kill the protagonist Carmen, but her boyfriend has escaped by hitting his captor with a shovel, stealing his gun, and running away. He rescues her despite overwhelming odds and they run away to find a house inexplicably lit with electricity even though this is not seen in the town before this. The cult members are left trapped in the shrine because he locked the door, even though they were shown using a sledgehammer on Sara only minutes earlier. Due to apparent forgetfulness they are forced to kick down the door, which gives the protagonists time to go down the plot stream. Our heroes take this family hostage and force their young son to translate their demands using his very rudimentary understanding of English. It looks like they're going to escape by stealing this unlucky family's pickup truck, but oh no! Our female protagonist has become some sort of demon because as it turns out, seeing that gargoyle impregnates you with Rosemary's baby or something. Both the girls had been vomiting a little during the film but I thought it was just their natural reaction to the script.
The demon woman slaughters the people in the house and the bad religious guys from earlier break in to kill her/rescue the good guy. They yell at each other and the demon lady yells back and they work together and the demon is slain and the good guy helps and only a few more random Polish cult members die. Then the good guy leaves and a Polish guy from earlier tells him that the town is cursed. Then credits.
It would seem like I was glossing over a lot there, and I am, because if the 3 American characters didn't say it, I have no idea what it was about. All foreign language, no subtitles, and any important information was completely lost in the process. I was very disappointed after seeing this film's poster, and Netflix's rating of this. After it ended I contemplated, "was it listed wrong? Is this a foreign film I needed subtitles on for?" I looked, and sure enough there was a subtitled option for the film. But then I tried that out...
Well that's just fucking peachy.
The subtitles for this film only designate that the other language being spoken is native to Poland. They couldn't even be bothered to call it Polish. Of all the lazy goddamn horror films I have seen, this is really quite close to the worst.
The first 30 minutes are painful to sit through. The slow moving parts are boring. And the boring parts are slow moving. The middle has a little interesting parts but then the last 30 minutes are so full of foreign languages without subtitles that you'll have no idea what is going on from one scene to the next. After viewing I'm left with a basic understanding of the film's events but absolutely no interest in anything that happened or any of our characters. In short: The Shrine is a waste of time.