Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Shrine

A plucky (read: kinda bitchy) reporter shirks an assignment to instead investigate the disappearance of some tourists in a small Polish town, dragging along her photographer boyfriend and an intern. After discovering a bizarre shrine hidden in the mist, the townspeople turn on them, seemingly intent on making them part of a sacrificial ritual.

Poor Aaron Ashmore, twin brother of Shawn Ashmore. Equally as handsome, equally as talented, and yet somehow Shawn landed the X-Men movies and will forever be the more famous twin. Both brothers now show up in a lot of horror movies, but Shawn's been in some legit pretty good ones (Frozen, The Ruins), whereas Aaron seems to turn up in Haylie Duff vehicles (Fear Island) and movies based around Val Kilmer cameos (The Thaw).

I like both Ashmores, I like when good actors do horror movies, and Aaron was pretty good in a memorable recurring role on the great Veronica Mars, so I'm always rooting for the guy. And I'm happy to say The Shrine has been the best horror film I've seen him in. He's well cast here, as an actor who makes a solid leading man but often shows up as second banana. Here, he starts out seeming like the second banana until... well, without giving much away, he ends up being the most proactive character during the last act.
In fact, I'd actually like to apologize to the makers of The Shrine right now, because a while back I tried watching it and gave up after the first half hour or so. It seemed slow and awkward and predictable and the protagonist wasn't very likable, and I was tired, so I quit. Since then, I think I may have even recommend to others that they not watch it. But it turns out that it gets a lot better as it goes along, it's not very predictable, and the unlikable heroine might actually be an asset. I'm sorry I doubted you, guys.

What it comes down to is a movie that makes you think it's The Wicker Man before taking a clever final act twist that messes a bit with who exactly you're supposed to be identifying with. The twist isn't exactly original, but it's well executed and a lot ballsier than I would have expected from the more generic opening.

There are some well handled chase and escape scenes, and the sacrificial ritual is appropriately icky and suspenseful. But the best scene is a nifty one where Ashmore, on the defensive, hears the sounds of a horrible slaughter happening in the room next to him, and later has to walk through. The movie has it both ways by making you imagine what terrible things are happening, then showing you the disgusting aftermath anyway.

Rating: B-

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