A QUICK CHAT WITH THE SHRINE DIRECTOR JON KNAUTZ
When Ross Hughes sat down last year to watch a little film called “The Shrine” he did not know what to expect! He knew that it was directed by the talented Jon Knautz who gave the world the quite wonderful 80’s throwback Jack Brooks Monster Slayer but that is all he knew. No trailer or info to go into, he sat there and wondered what kind of horror film he was about to see. Torture Porn? Another 80’s style horror or something else? What he saw was something totally different, a film that had him screaming from the rooftops telling people how good this film was. When we asked Mr Knautz could he spare five minutes for a quick chat and he agreed there was only one man we could send. With Ross packed and all set to go we only had one advice of give him….
“Beware of the mist in the woods and any freaky looking statues!”….
Hi Mr Jon Knautz, thanks for speaking to HorrorCultFilms we know that you are extremely busy and we like to express our thanks to you for making this happen. First thing we would like to say is WOW! The second thing is “The Shrine”, you must be mightily impressed and proud at the critical acclaim and love this little beauty has found?
Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. I’m very happy with the film and its turn out. It was an ambitious project and I’m glad to see it out on the market now.
What was the Inspiration for the The Shine?
I was definitely inspired by Scott Smith’s book “The Ruins”.
I really responded to the cultural miscommunication between the American back-packers and the Mayans. The language barrier created such an exciting and mysterious sense of horror. Visually I was inspired by the works of Mario Bava and other films from the 70’s.
The film is virtually a horror of three parts….first we have what seems like we are heading towards a Hostel kind of Horror with a trio entering a foreign land, then it all goes Clive Barker on us with that mist and creepy imagery and then….well that final half……was something no one expected! The film has so many layers was it hard to write and then put on screen because it seems such a complicated plot but its told with such ease?
I worked backwards when developing the story, so I knew exactly how the ending would be right from the start. The challenge then was to mislead the audience into thinking the film would turn out to be something else. It was definitely tricky to write in terms of hiding the “truth” of the storyline, but that’s what made it fun. It’s great to be challenged when writing something because it forces you to stay sharp while crafting the story. To be honest, I would actually love to write “The Shrine” storyline as a novel someday because there is so much more to the story that I had no time to show in the film.
One of the delights of the movie is the lack of subtitles in some scenes so when the residents of the town are talking the trio have no idea what is being said! Its an ingenious move by your part because it means we the viewer are confused and frustrated and we are like the fourth member of the gang in that we are uncomfortable with them. This actually scared me more than anything else in the film because my Imagination was going overdrive! Was this ploy hard to convince the studio because I can imagine some one saying to you “Look….we need subtitles for this part!”?
Yes, funny you mention that. I definitely ran into a few moments (more after the film was made) where people were stressing that we use subtitles. But thankfully my team supported me and we kept those subtitles out. And that is exactly what I wanted from the very start. The whole idea was to make the audience just as confused as the main characters and to push the audience’s imagination into overdrive, just like you said. It’s so great to hear someone like yourself appreciate that
I mentioned that The Shrine came in three parts and I sighed when I sat down and watched it originally because I really thought that I was heading for torture porn horror again. Was the opening half deliberately set up this way, its like you giving the modern audience brought up on the likes of Saw and Hostel what they want and then you just pull the rug from under them?
That was exactly the plan. I honestly couldn’t explain it better than you just did. I just wanted to take something that everyone was familiar with and then turn it on its head.
Who created that freaky statue and again what was your inspiration?
Our brilliant effects artist David Scott created the statue.
Him and his team did a fantastic job. Both Dave and I referenced a lot of ancient gargoyle statues. I wanted the statue to feel like it could have been around for ages, something way before our time, to give it that sort of mystery.
Its such a departure from Jack Brooks that it showed you have wonderful talent behind the camera. Brooks was more black comic horror while The Shrine was a full blown assault to your senses, proving to the masses you have what it takes to do horror of any kind. Is this a genre that you would like to stay in and really male a name for yourself or are you going to branch out into the likes of thriller or even a comedy?
Thank so much for the compliments. I will always love horror. And I never really plan on leaving it, however, at this time I’m very interested in exploring new genres. I would love to tackle a drama; something more character based and performance driven. We shall see.
And what about Jack Brooks 2….any news because its one of our most eagerly awaited films?
Ah yes, Jack Brooks 2…we’ve had many questions about the sequel. We have developed one but it’s still in the early stages. It may be some time before that moves into production, but hopefully sooner rather than later.
We ask all the talented directors the same question which is If you had a chance to spend the evening in a pub talking movies with any director, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Alive, it would be David Fincher
Dead, it would be Billy Wilder.
Both filmmakers have inspired me greatly since I started making films. And it would be amazing to pick their brains for an evening…I have so many questions.
And in the voice of Ghostface “What is your Favourite Scary Movie?”
Mr Knautz its been a pleasure I hope we did not take too much of your time and we wish you all the best for your future….
My pleasure. Any time!
We would like to thank Mr Knautz once again for letting us do this interview and in case you missed the review of The Shrine from Hughesy himself, here it is again….
What’s it all about!
A group of young journalists investigate a cult said to practice human sacrifice, but their ambitious ways may lead them to becoming the cult’s next victims!
The Hughes Verdict!
With the year coming towards the end I finally discovered 2011’s hidden horror. Every year I find one that thrills my bone, a film that I need to shout from the roof-tops and tell everyone about. Last year I was lucky because I had two delights with The Torment and The Objective making my horror juices flow but 2011 has been a poor year where most of my searches and end results have led to boredom and even to some that I have found hard to write about.
Well not anymore!
The Shrine is quite possibly one of the best horror films of the year, a delightful romp that stunned me and will shock all those reading this because what starts off as something you probably sigh at, ends up being an Evil Dead fun ride that will make you beg for a sequel. Perhaps what we are seeing here is a birth of a new name in horror and that is Jon Knautz, the man behind the “Ash!” inspired Jack Brooks Monster Slayer. Knautz for me personally seemed to disappear after the success of Jack and when his name appeared on screen I have to say my interest in this film peaked a little bit, but even from that I simply did not expect a film like this which mixes all horror genre, stirs them in a huge big bowl and dishes out a tasty dish.
We start though with the negative, a moment that even I thought “Oh not again!” Here we have the sight of a young man all set to be tortured by a man in a white cloak which looks like a whole human sacrifice gig. Echoes of yet another Hostel rip off will fill your mind and for the first twenty minutes you have to forgive yourself for not wanting to press the off button, because The Shrine is ticking all the right boxes of yet another torture-porn flick
After seeing the set up we move to journalist Carmen (Sampson), who is determined to get a really big story and make a name of herself. Unhappy with her new assignment of “strange going on with bees!”, she uncovers a story about missing tourists in Poland which ties up the opening scene of the film. Ignoring her editors assignment and with reluctant photographer boyfriend Marcus (Ashmore) and eager assistant Sara (Heffern) in tow, the trio travel to the sleepy town of Alvania, where they find their arrival not so welcome. So far all very Hostel and countless other films of this nature and it continues with this theme for a while yet
The usual happens, the villagers act suspicious, there is a weird man cutting up a pig, the villagers get angry because the trio are asking questions and soon they are demanding them to leave. It was here I was expecting them to either get kidnapped or book into a hostel but then we get to the first plot twist, and that is the sight of the lingering fog that hangs over a certain part of the forest. Despite the best intentions of Marcus’s to convince them to get back into their car and get the heck out of there, Carmen makes the wrong choice and convinces him to investigate this dense wall eerie, unnatural fog.
Its here we switch to the work of Clive Barker, a thrilling set piece that had me glued to my seat. I have not seen quite a freaky scene all year and this is when The Shrine started to get my full attention. Sara enters the fog first only for then to disappear, Carmen follows and its here we realise that when inside, time sort of stops, there is no sound or visibility which seems bad enough until Carmen encounters a statue like a gargoyle right in the middle of this place. She stops to take a photo, but then something wrong, something supernatural happens and its here, you the viewer realise that this film is not going to be about Hostel after all but something different, something Evil Dead!
Its amazing at how much The Shrine manages to fool you into thinking what direction this is going and I doubt many avid horror fans could second guess the outcome of the film. This is one of the most perfect horror plots of many years and what adds to the whole mystery is the lack of subtitles in certain scenes. When the Polish people are talking among the innocent trio for at times, a lengthy debate, we get no incline into what they are saying. This makes us the viewer be in the shoes of these innocent characters because we are confused with them and while it may annoy some people, for me I thought it was an ingenious idea by the makers.
The final third act will blow you way! It totally makes you forget the dodgy moments that surround the film. Yes the characters do really stupid things and the dialogue at times is really bad, but its all worthwhile thanks to the final 25 minutes which makes a mockery of such films like the higher status Insidious. I can not tell you how good the climax is. Its like a wow, a full stunning assault to the brain that I did not expect, I am telling all Evil Dead fans that you will lap up the climax for all its worth.
From that said film, to other films like The Wicker Man, Hostel, The Ruins, to Barker to Bava, there are many elements of this film which have been influenced by past greats and yet somehow it all works. Even the final shot is not what you will expect, there is no daft twist or sudden rise of the Bogeyman, its a simple resolution that begs for The Shrine 2 to be made.
At the end of the day, I only have one statement to make….
“Take a bow to 2011’s most surprising and terrific underrated horror gem!”