I applaud any director who goes through the effort of using creature effects to create their monsters, rather than going the CG-route. It seems like CG is used for pretty much everything nowadays, even so far as using it instead of squibs for blood in movies. Director Jon Knautz is big on the same line of thinking – his Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer features tons of great looking creatures that were done using makeup and prosthetics, not a computer.
The problem with Jack Brooks ultimately boiled down to one main issue: it was boring. It was a short film, but it took way too long to get to the punchline and, despite the punchline being pretty darn good … the slow parts just weren’t interesting enough to make it worth the wait. Did The Shrine fair any better?
In The Shrine, a group of young journalists investigate a cult said to practice human sacrifice, and end up uncovering a secret that could cost them their lives, starting with a giant mist just outside of town that never leaves or moves, and is too thick to see through. Venturing into the fog, two of the party come across a giant horrific statue, and not long after they’re running from the villagers, who are out to make them their next sacrifice.
The Shrine is definitely a slow burn. Unlike Jack Brooks, though, you get a sense of dread throughout that helps keep the film interesting despite it taking its time to bring on the momentum. For the first hour, you get a lot of walking around and arguing, but not terribly much else going on.
The acting is well done, and the film looks decent enough. It’s just not terribly exciting. It’s creepy, and well worth a DTV watching, but it doesn’t set itself out as a standout film, despite an ending fifteen minutes that are fantastic. The problem is that the final sequence just isn’t enough to make up for the rest of the film. Knautz definitely employs as much as possible at the end, and you get some great effects, but it’ll leave you wondering why it couldn’t have happened a half hour earlier because, as soon as the film picks up, it ends, leaving you with a feeling of “that’s it?”
Knautz is going to be a director to keep an eye on. However, it seems like his writing leaves something to be desired. Maybe in the future, adapting someone else’s work will help him to create a truly pleasing horror experience.