Carmen's (Cindy Sampson) relationship with Marcus (Aaron Ashmore) appears to be stalling. One of the main reasons appears to be Carmen's ambitious streak: she's a journalist for a local paper, and is desperate to find a story to truly sink her teeth into.

She believes she's found just that when she comes across the news of a young backpacker who has gone missing in mysterious circumstances. The area in which he was last sighted is a notoriously weird place to begin with, and there have been reports of other people going missing there...

Despite a warning from her boss to drop her investigation, Carmen enlists the help of colleague and best mate Sara (Meghan Heffern) and sets out to interview the missing traveller's mother, Laura (Laura de Carteret). Of course, this only leaves the pair of intrepid reporters more intrigued - and more determined to solve the mystery.

And so, Carmen and Sara head off to the remote rural community where young Eric (Ben Lewis) was last seen. The village, they've been told, is infamous for its devoutly religious occupants and rumours of human sacrifices that have occurred there over the years.

Almost immediately upon their arrival, the girls are met with hostility from the locals. Good job they took Marcus with them for support. Although even he can't provide much help when Carmen runs into a bleeding gargoyle during a walk through the fog-engulfed woods. Perhaps they'd have more joy putting their faith in creepy little local girl Lidia (Julia Debowksa) ...

The story to THE SHRINE doesn't really develop much, but does throw in a couple of neat twists which it would be unfair and spoilerific of me to repeat here. The basics are above. Needless to say, our hapless trio don't heed the bad signs we all see coming from an early point in the film and, after much internal squabbling, end up in deep shit ...

A good-looking cast, a polished mainstream sheen and a slow start don't do THE SHRINE any favours. Nor does the initial disappointment of learning this has nothing to do with James Herbert's excellent novel of the same name. However, the film does eventually pick up pace and the story - co-written by director Jon Knautz, Trevor Matthews and Brendan Moore - manages to throw in a few surprises. Along with gore, towards the end.

Knautz, you may remember, directed the hugely entertaining 80s throwback JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER, which starred Matthews (he also features in an acting capacity here). It's good to see the pair working together again, although THE SHRINE is an altogether different type of film. It's a more considered, brooding piece: Knautz appears to be aiming for "serious filmmaker" status here, with a first half almost solely dedicated to careful exposition and even more delicately prepared compositions. Certainly, the film looks extremely accomplished and has some very atmospheric sequences to its credit. No doubt it would've looked great on a cinema screen - if only its first two acts weren't so low key as to most likely alienate your average Multiplex moron.

Performances are as subdued as the action, ensuring a lot of THE SHRINE's build-up will wash over most viewers. It's not that the film's bad (other plus points include its subtle score and some great cinematography that takes full advantage of the attractive Canadian outdoors). It's just mediocre, save for a final act that attempts a little too late to raise the bar.

Arrow's blu-ray disc is encoded to region B and is a single layered, 25GB affair.

It presents the film as an MPEG4-AVC file in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in a 16x9 enhanced 1080p transfer. Muted colour schemes are an obvious stylistic choice of the filmmakers here, and the transfer does a good job of staying true to the palettes employed. Elsewhere images are a little soft but free from excessive digital tampering, and a natural filmic feel is retained for the most part. Blacks are solid and edge enhancement is kept in check.

English audio is provided in choices of PCM 2.0 stereo and a rousing, well-balanced 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. It doesn't harm the drama any, but is perhaps worth noting that there are no subtitles to help with the very occasional instances of foreign dialogue.

An animated main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

There are no extra features on the disc.

Although this is not one of their Special Edition range, the disc opens with Arrow's customary 4-minute promo reel showcasing the likes of DAY OF THE DEAD, DEMONS, STREET TRASH and so on. We also get a breathlessly sensational trailer for HATCHET 2 - "Uncensored! Uncut!".

THE SHRINE gets a decent presentation on blu-ray from Arrow. It's not a great film but it does show Knautz's growth as a filmmaker, if not as a storyteller.

Fans of mainstream horrors of late (THE RITE; THE REAPING, that sort of thing) are likely to get the most out of this.

Also available on DVD.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Entertainment One/Arrow
Region B
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review