DIRECTOR: Michael Barrett
When three American tourists take a trip to Japan. They discover an old map inside a shop that contains a temple in it. Fascinated with the temple, the trio set off on their adventure to try and locate the temple in the backwoods of Tochigi. They will quickly discover that the temple has something far more sinister attached to it and their trip will turn into a nightmare.
Japan was the first country that I ever travelled too outside of Australia. I was gifted this travel guide for my twenty-sixth birthday by an old boss of mine who knew that I had never been overseas. Living in Japan himself, he adored the country and wanted to inspire me to travel so he thought that Japan would be a great first place to see. It would be a country that would take me out of my comfort zone and show me a world outside of my own homeland. He knew that it was safe and that a younger bloke like myself would enjoy it.
So when a story features Japan as the central location where something awful befalls a group of people, I am always drawn to it. I don't care how terrible the quality is of the film. I will always find myself suckered into watching it even if only for the visual aspect. It's even more rewarding for me when it's a group of tourists who come into contact with something far eviler. Being lost in translation while in a foreign land is a very scary thing and being someone who has felt it many times. It's something that always peaks my interest in a horror film.
Going into Temple, the only thing I knew about it was that Simon Barrett was a writer on it. The man is responsible for writing some incredibly solid horror with You're Next and The Guest. He's had his fair share of misses as well with the third Blair Witch and now Temple. This is wanderlust gone awry but where movies like The Grudge and The Forest, to some degree, made Japan feel scary for those who have come to visit, live, or work. I felt that Temple underwhelmed when it came to being creepy on any level. This felt like it missed the mark entirely.
Temple opens up with the police doing a ground search through a dark forest. When one of the Japanese officers opens up the doors to this temple, she suddenly comes across something far more sinister. Cut to the story revealing that we have just one potential survivor. This person looks like they've been burnt alive and survived. We are soon introduced to the couple who he was travelling with via flashbacks and his video recordings. We quickly learn that these two people may have not escaped the ordeal which makes nothing about this story shocking or surprising.
The film clocks in at an hour and eighteen minutes. In this time, I was left with more questions than answers. The movie throws in lots of imagery like people with no eyes and children with sharp, monstrous teeth. Yet, it never explains their existence. There isn't any real mythology on them, the two-headed monster, or the temple. It feels like nothing here makes sense. There are also subplots that never get a resolution. I think with such a shortened run time, this could've been longer and more fleshed out to try and give the audience more backstory. Not having that really hinders it.
There is a third act twist that I think will also disappoint horror fans. Not because it's terrible, but it's been done before. The twist is neither original nor is it even shocking. When it happened, I had guessed that it was coming from a mile away. For once, this may have been me watching too closely and realised that a particular individual may have not actually been there. I felt that it was too easily laid out for the audience with this one. The way the movie also wraps up is a bit lacklustre. When it cuts to black, it feels incomplete. A character does something, escapes, and credits roll. I don't know if they thought there would be a sequel, but the ending is a bust.
Visually, I think the movie looked gorgeous. As I said at the start of the review, Japan is one of my favourite places on Earth. I love when horror movies are filmed there as it already feels like a place that has seen it's fair share of devastation. I love that the country feels in touch with its folklore and ghosts. There is this sense of sadness that falls over the country. It has beauty in equal measures. I think horror movies like this one capture that. Minus a few silly moments with a CGI monster towards the end of the film. I think this looked well made for the most part.
Lastly, we come to the performances and acting. While individual characters here are written to be either douchey, or they make stupid decisions. I actually liked our lead actor who plays the third wheel to the couple. He is played by Logan Huffman who I haven't seen in anything before, but I thought he played the nice guy here very well. Natalia Warner is the sexy best friend on a trip with her boyfriend played by Brandon Sklenar. I thought they were written to be really contrived. They bring him along, only to have one of them really rub it in this guys face. I didn't like them.
DEATH TOLL: 1
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Blood is seen dripping on a book.
- A woman is seen with no eyes.
- A guy is attacked by children with sharp teeth.
- A guy is seen with no eyes, and his skin is ripped open.
- It's implied that a man has his head crushed with a rock.
- A man is stabbed in the throat with a pen.
Temple is a movie that features some gorgeous cinematography of Japan. They really capture the country beautifully. With a sympathetic leading performance from Logan Huffman, nice scenery and a decent performance aren't enough to save Temple from being a generic ghost story. With little to no backstory, no exposition, and an ending that feels incomplete or rushed, the movie missed the mark with me. Sad as Simon Barrett is a talented writer and I've enjoyed a few of the movies he's been part of in the past. Watch The Grudge or The Forest instead.