Directed by Michael Barrett
When Japanese police discover a horribly disfigured body at a small village, they must piece together what happened using DSLR camera footage found at the scene and the testimony of the sole survivor who seems less than willing to talk.
With the footage revealing that three American friends descended on an ancient, remote temple in the woods above the village, rumoured to be the site of potential child murders, the police attempt to ascertain the truth of the events that took place that night.
Written by Simon Barrett, he of the Blair Witch remake, The Guest and V/H/S fame, and directed by his brother Michael, horror TEMPLE embraces the found footage genre by adding a dollop of Japanese folklore thrown in for good measure.
Meeting our three main characters through the camera footage, we learn that pretty young woman Kate is travelling to Japan with her best mate Christopher, who’ll be translating thanks to his proficiency in the Japanese language, and will meet boyfriend James there. Her goal is to scout out temples and other such monuments as part of her religious studies. Arriving at Japan and meeting up with boyfriend James, we get the feeling of “two’s company, three’s a crowd” with James scratching his head as to why a handsome young man such as Christopher is joining them on their trip and how has he never made a pass at Kate. Quiet, shy Christopher, who’s apparently been suffering from a breakdown in recent times, seems happy to perform translation duties and accompany Kate as a friend but those long glances at his bestie and his night-time recording of her and James shagging in a room goes beyond awkward. Thankfully, we don’t have to endure much small talk before they set off to the temple to unearth its secrets.
So what is it about this titular temple that has everyone spooked? Almost as though the plot has been lifted from The Blair Witch Project, the temple was home to a monk who was killed by the locals when their children went missing after playing near there. Talk of a surviving child making his way back down to the village, holding his eyes in his hands, would have anyone re-adjusting their underwear and marching in the opposite direction but these guys don’t seem to care. It also doesn’t help that translator Chris doesn’t even bother to divulge this little snippet of information to his friends. So onwards they go to the mysterious temple, guarded by a shape-shifting mythological creature Kitsune, to have a general toot about with a little help from a young local boy.
The first two thirds of TEMPLE are genuinely interesting with the steady buildup to the temple establishing the tension both of the impending horror and that of the relationship between the three main characters. It’s when they finally get to the temple that things go downhill rapidly.
The Blair Witch ripoff of a story I was willing to overlook especially considering the intriguing folklore aspect the film was including. However, using the kitsune god bothered me a little as my knowledge of Kitsune, even though rather limited, was that the nine-tailed rice fox is a friendly creature that can shape shift into a human but is never really malevolent… mischievious sometimes, maybe, but overall quite benevolent. So when the film decided to go down the route of a human form of kitsune running around like some sort of medusa type, CGI deviant, I began to get a little disgruntled. This isn’t the only issue. The horror elements that the film slowly built up to were spilled across the final third like a respulsive spray of puke, making hardly any sense and having all what was built up ruined in one fell swoop. To top it off, the film finishes with a “big reveal” that everyone saw coming from the opening third and cuts to credits without actually concluding the story. It’s films like these that wind horror fans up because they spend so much time establishing a decent premise only to totally undo it with a rushed mess that is only horrific in its execution, not the story.
Despite a decent performance from V’s Logan Huffman as Christopher, TEMPLE is a pointless exercise that had potential but chose to throw it all away.