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Temple (2017) Review

Familiar horror film with young Americans in Japan.

Temple is a 2017 horror film about three American tourists who follow a mysterious map deep into the jungles of Japan searching for an ancient temple, only to find a nightmare.

Here we go again. Another horror film where reckless American young people get mixed up in ancient lore and horror in the hollows of a foreign country, this time in Japan, a popular setting in the genre. Michael Barrett‘s Temple isn’t looking to rewrite the book per se, only to add pages to it, plodding along in the ruts of so many that have come before. It’s a slow, uninteresting experience that fails to make good on nearly every hint of promise it offers.

It begins after something horrific has happened, leaving a terribly-disfigured and unrecognizable person enclosed in a heavy plastic bubble getting wheeled into a hospital room where investigators are waiting with some very heavy questions. As they inquire about what they’ve found, the film flashes back a week earlier when the lovely Kate (Natalia Warner), her slick boyfriend James (Brandon Sklenar) and her longtime best friend Chris (Logan Huffman) head to Japan to explore. Right away they find a mysterious book in a shop and inside see drawings of a temple they want to visit, despite the shopkeepers warnings. And many others. Eventually, they make their way to it in the dead of night having learned about a tragedy in its past. But they are not alone.

It’s really a mistake to label Temple as a horror film, despite its trappings. The story takes nearly all of its runtime before the first legitimate ‘scare’ makes it on screen with these three characters sluggishly building up some tension between them as questions of loyalty and true feelings are tenuously played out. In fact, it becomes almost painfully hopeful that Barrett and screenwriter Simon Barrett are trying to make a point about this triangle (with a crucial moment in a nightclub being the catalyst for it all) but they are each such shallow personalities of horror film archetypes that there’s no interest in their fates when the time comes when it should matter. Instead, the filmmakers are much more focused on keeping everything as dark as possible, looking to lead us on a circuitous path to an ambiguous ending.

Temple
Temple, 2017 © Absurda

The film bookends itself with the interrogation, and while admittedly the opening is intriguing, it is ultimately a dead end. We are left with questions we shouldn’t have but more so, there is very little inspiration in trying to find the answers. It’s too bad because while it is all standard stuff, Barrett does manage to give it some style and when it’s light enough to see, is genuinely good looking. The actor do well too, considering the limits of the screenplay, but there’s just no getting over the lack of momentum. While we are meant to consider alternatives for what really happened at the Temple in question, it’s all too rudimentary, the movie unable to inspire a single scare and worse, a reason for there to even be one. Fans of Japanese horror may find some glint of promise in some of what’s here but for the rest, this will be a hollow experience.

Temple (2017) Review

Movie description: Temple is a 2017 horror film about three American tourists who follow a mysterious map deep into the jungles of Japan searching for an ancient temple, only to find a nightmare.

Director(s): Michael Barrett

Actor(s): Naoto Takenaka, Asahi Uchida, Logan Huffman

Genre: Horror

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