The Shrine is about an ambitious resourceful heroine who’s so focused on her journalism career that she doesn’t pay sufficient attention to her boyfriend, and she’s made to pay for this. She catches wind of a potential story of tourists who disappear in a remote Polish village and drags her photog-boyfriend there; they take along an intern—a younger, perkier version of herself—because they need a spare. They all determinedly do the opposite of whatever they should.
This begins as another xenophobic horror in post-commie Eastern Europe, touching on the atavistic fears of modern city folk when confronted with rural folk, and then turns frankly into a variation on The Exorcist. The boyfriend gets to hear her break down in tears and apologize (“It’s all my fault”) when things go south, but she won’t get off that easily. Women like her are clearly possessed by the devil, and the boyfriend must finally collude with the male society that fights evil. Thus do horror movies tap into social fears—in this case, the fears of insecure young men who feel threatened by go-getting women.
The woodsy locales are effective, and the highpoint is the lengthy wordless scene in the mist where the women discover a terrifying statue. That moment is creepy, well paced and visualized, with perhaps a nod to Lovecraft or Arthur Machen. I like that it’s never fully explained, except for one local who shrugs and says “It’s our curse.”