It was Conor’s turn this time around, and he brought us a horror film (he’s one of the few who have a tendency to go that route in our crowd) – this one with a bit of a clever twist. It’s called The Shrine, and it came from director Jon Knautz in 2010.
But the film was certainly going to be brief enough, so to lead off I searched out a short and found one – though it really would have gone better with Memento last time around. This one, directed by Jörn Threlfall, is called Over, and it exposes an unexpected crime scene in reverse order. I didn’t see the ending coming, but then again, you couldn’t. I mean, watch this and tell me you had it pegged. I dare you.
Our feature presentation was another movie you probably couldn’t have pegged but I’m totally going to spoil it, so if you haven’t seen it and want to enjoy it as thoroughly as possible, stop reading, dummy.
The setup for the film revolves around Carmen, a young magazine journalist who has been feuding with her boyfriend Marcus (a subplot which goes nowhere at all) and is following up on the story of a local man who went missing on a trip through eastern Europe (we actually see him murdered in the opening scene by way of a sledgehammer and a gruesome wrought metal eye-spike mask – and this is the actual plot, so this goes somewhere). Despite being told by her boss that she’s to be writing a story on dying honeybees, she instead interviews the man’s mother, who surrenders his diary taken from his luggage, which showed up in some random city.
It turns out that his last diary entries were from a remote town in Poland called Alvania where he spoke of aloof villagers and a mysterious ever-present fog off in the forest. Apparently, this is somewhat of an epidemic – people disappearing in Alvania and their luggage showing up other places but nobody seems to be very interested in it at all, including her editor. In fact, even the missing young man himself, who shows up in Carmen’s dream with bloody eye holes and begging her to “leave me alone” isn’t terribly interested in her following this up.
So naturally, she ropes her boyfriend and her intern at the magazine into an unauthorized trip to Poland. I was pretty hung up on the idea that she was pretty much certain to be unemployed when she got back, but this is a horror film. She’s not coming back.
Sure enough, the villagers in Alvania are unwelcoming, and when our threesome starts to head towards a strange fog in the woods (wow, just as the missing young dead man described!) they get chased threateningly out of town. But since this is a horror movie, people do dumb things, like sneak back and go into the fog. Within the fog, the intern and Carmen end up coming across a creepy demon statue that follows you with its head, and this is definitely not good. When they finally find their way out to Marcus, they are disturbed but seem to have little clue as to why they are so frightened.
They are led by an elementary-aged village girl to an underground shrine, where they find a large treasure trove of mask-faced bodies, including one they can identify as their missing dude. But this was probably a trap, because the villagers show up and capture them. Their apparent cultic leader looks into their eyes, and has the two women imprisoned in the shrine while Marcus is sent off with a few others to evidently dig his own grave.
About now the villagers begin to show their real nasty side. The intern gets the mask first, while Carmen looks on. She really should have taken that position at IBM, but no, had to try journalism! Dumb intern. Dumb, dead intern.
Meanwhile, Carmen keeps getting glimpses of the evil demonic avatars of the villagers as they pop back and forth between their human shapes and this hideous Uruk-Hai stuff. Luckily for Carmen (you would think) Marcus has escaped his hapless guardians while the real enforcers of the village were dealing with the women. He rescues Carmen and they flee to a farmhouse conveniently located nearby this evil village, where they take the inhabitants prisoner and hope to steal their truck to get out of Dodge.
Unfortunately for Carmen, she starts turning into a demon herself. She dispatches the farmers and is about to take care of Marcus when the villagers show up.
And what do you know? They’re the good guys! Carmen only thought they looked like demons because that’s what she was turning into. Because she saw the statue. Don’t look at creepy statues, they’ll turn you evil! Carmen, in her now-advanced demon state, manages to take out the leader, leaving room for the nordically-handsome young villager the camera has been Slabrock Beefchunking over all film to take charge, and Marcus and Slabrock finally succeed in “applying a mask” and the evil is taken care of. For now.
Slabrock explains that the statue can’t be gotten rid of (what if you nuke it from orbit?) and that it is a curse placed upon the village from long ago. These poor sad longsuffering Alvanians who have to face-stake everybody who goes into the fog then just let Marcus go. Because, I dunno, they figure he won’t expose the secret of their village to the world? Come on, the movie at least should have forced the villagers to induct Marcus into their cult of anti-demonites, make him forge some masks, something like that. But no, he’s probably going to head out and tell the world about the goings-on in Alvania so now you’re going to have 50 dumb college kids a week trying to sneak in to see the demon statue because they’re too dumb not to. (Obviously not) The End.
The movie is clever in that it does a good job of hiding the fact that the villagers are in fact the (justifiably grumpy) good guys until the last moment, and that’s the main attraction of the movie. Other than that, it’s a pretty typical, even formulaic horror film. Beautiful young people make continual bad decisions that often don’t make sense, etc. etc. But at least the premise gets turned on its head a bit.