The Shrine is a strange one, a strange one indeed. It's the kind of dumb horror that we've all seen hundreds of times before, but it's given just enough intelligence and just enough of a twist to make it worth your while.
Cindy Sampson plays Carmen, a journalist who decides to lie to her boss and follow a story that she can't let go of, one involving a missing young man. The young man was last known to have been travelling in an area that has seen other disappearances in recent years and Carmen thinks it's more than just a coincidence. She takes along her intern Sara (Meghan Heffern) and also her boyfriend (played by Aaron Ashmore), who is handy with a camera. When they get to the location of their potential story it's not long until they find themselves feeling distinctly unwelcome.
From the opening sequence showing some strange and dangerous ritual to the scenes of an eye-rolling journalist lying to her boss while following up a "hot lead" to the moments that see some young people being treated very discourteously by angry locals, The Shrine spends an hour or so being a by-the-numbers horror movie. That's why the third act, with one or two twists on the material, ends up being such a pleasant surprise. Once again, there's nothing that hasn't been done before, but it dodges left when you think it's going to go right and vice versa. Will horror fans be amazed by these fake-outs and twists? No, probably not at all, but they do elevate the film by taking the audience to a very different final destination than the one pointed out at the beginning.
The cast all do a good enough job. Cindy Sampson is very good as Carmen, Meghan Heffern is very good as Sara and Aaron Ashmore hasn't put in a bad performance that I can think of in anything that I've seen him in. Trevor Matthews and Vieslav Krystan are also perfectly fine, if a bit nondescript, in their roles.
Jon Nautz (who both directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Trevor Matthews and Brendan Moore) does a much better job this time around than he did with Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer though I am aware that quite a few people liked that movie more than I did. He shows that he knows how to put together some standard genre moments and then goes on to show how easily things can be freshened up ever so slightly. Horror aficionados may balk and say that Nautz brings absolutely nothing new to the table, but I give the guy points for trying. Sometimes that is all you want/need to see in the flood of identikit movies that just keep being churned out nowadays.