Best movies: Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2008), The Shrine (2011)

Only two films into his still-blooming career, Jon Knautz has already cemented himself as an unclassifiable genre director—his pair of strong flicks couldn’t be any more different.

First, in 2008, the Ontario, Canada, native tapped into that old Evil Dead 2 level of fun with Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, a wild, hilarious, and gruesome tale about a plumber hell-bent on killing ghouls to avenge the slaughtering of his family. At that point, Knautz could’ve fashioned himself into a new-age Sam Raimi, but then he went in a much darker direction.

The Shrine, which was unfairly restricted to a VOD release last year, isn’t an entirely groundbreaking horror movie; the plot, for one, is familiar. A trio of attractive young journalists ventures into a secluded Polish community to uncover the whereabouts of a missing tourist, only to run headfirst into a homicidal cult—see, nothing revolutionary. With Knautz at the helm, though, The Shrine rises above its generic trappings, engaging with strong performances and sporadic bursts of ritualistic gore that build up to a clever surprise of an ending. And with that, he’s earned our trust.