The Shrine on DVD & Blu-ray

I was drawn to review this film by the claim of “a wonderfully eerie slice of Lovecraftian horror” (thanks, BeyondHollywood.Com). I can only assume that whoever wrote that particular line has never read any of HP Lovecraft’s tales. There is no sense of cosmic threat, nor eon-spanning depth. “The Shrine” is a simple story that covers familiar, well-trodden ground. The other grandiose quotes festooned about the packaging are equally off-target.

The plot is basic: three one-dimensional characters put themselves in harm’s way while investigating the disappearance of a back-packer in a tiny village in rural Poland. Where this differs from the majority of teen-slasher flicks is that the three choose to visit this dangerous area (one albeit reluctantly) rather than just wandering into it – though there is a sort-of hut-thing in the woods! The lead protagonist is Carmen (Cindy Sampson), a journalist who is attempting to rescue her career and mend her relationship with photographer boyfriend Marcus (Aaron Ashmore).

The Shrine on DVD and Blu-ray

Dragged along in their wake is Sara (Meghan Heffern), an intern at the paper, who’s only function in the proceedings is obvious from the outset.

The acting throughout is mediocre at best, and though the actors don’t employ the kind of freeze-in-place technique pioneered so memorably by Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, there are times it comes perilously close. Especially in the pivotal scene between Carmen and the statue – one of those unintentionally laughable moments that should be scary and thereby mar quite a few horror films.

The foreign villagers, no burning torches nor pitchforks (but you know they must be in a cupboard nearby), are unable to speak English when it matters, only when it serves the plot (during a final exposition to assist all those otherwise baffled by the thin story). Despite an interesting twist (which does become obvious early in the film if you pay attention) the plot is formulaic.

The special effects are mainly mood lighting and an over-abundance of fake gore during the latter stages of the film. The scene in the motionless fog is quite effective, but rendered less so by the previously mentioned interaction with the statue, and is probably a good example of the film as a whole. It strives to be greater than others of its ilk, but hindered by its execution (no pun intended – but you’ll understand the temptation if you do choose to watch this film!), falls short of any genre significance.

I found the music uninspiring, though adequate, and didn’t feel it added anything to the mood of the piece, so was surprised to learn that it received a nomination for Best Score Soundtrack in the 2012 Grammy Awards.

“The Shrine” comes with no extras. Which is – perhaps – an accurate summation of the film itself.

“The Shrine” (‘15’) has a run time of 82 minutes approx, and is out now from Arrow Films on DVD (RRP £12.99) and Blu-ray (RRP £19.99), or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com