Based on the New York Times best-selling novel, The Shack takes us on a father’s uplifting spiritual journey. After suffering a family tragedy, Mack Phillips [Sam Worthington] spirals into a deep depression causing him to question his innermost beliefs. Facing a crisis of faith, he receives a mysterious letter urging him to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Despite his doubts, Mack journeys to the shack and encounters an enigmatic trio of strangers led by a woman named Papa [Octavia Spencer]. Through this meeting, Mack finds important truths that will transform his understanding of his tragedy and change his life forever.
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Four years prior to the main events of the story, Mack takes three (of his five) children on a camping trip to Wallowa Lake near Joseph, Oregon stopping at Multnomah Falls on the way. Two of his children are playing in a canoe when it flips and almost drowns Mack’s son. Mack is able to save his son by rushing to the water and freeing him from the canoe’s webbing, but unintentionally leaves his youngest daughter Missy alone at their campsite. After Mack returns, he sees that Missy is missing. The police are called, and the family discovers that Missy has been abducted and murdered by a serial killer known as the “Little Ladykiller”. The police find an abandoned shack in the woods where Missy was taken. Her bloodied clothing is found but her body is not located. Mack’s life sinks into what he calls “The Great Sadness”.
Mack’s family leaves to visit relatives and he goes alone to the shack, unsure of what he will see there. He arrives and initially finds nothing, but as he is leaving, the shack and its surroundings are supernaturally transformed into a lush and inviting scene. He enters the shack and encounters manifestations of the three persons of the Trinity. God the Father takes the form of an African American woman who calls herself Elousia and Papa; Jesus Christ is a Middle-Eastern carpenter; and the Holy Spirit physically manifests as an Asian woman named Sarayu.
After spending the weekend at the shack, Mack leaves and is so preoccupied with his thoughts that he is nearly killed in an automobile accident. After his recovery, he realizes that he did not in fact spend the weekend at the shack, but that his accident occurred on the same day that he arrived at the shack. He also leads the police to the cave that Papa revealed, and they find Missy’s body still lying there. With the help of forensic evidence discovered at the scene, the Little Ladykiller is arrested and put on trial.