A group of American tourists travels into the heart of a Japanese mountainside to find an ancient temple of ill repute.
Japanese mysticism and folklore are rarely explored in American horror films, which is a real shame since there is a wealth of bloodcurdling creatures, demons, and stories to be found there. I think this has to do with the various costs of making a film on location overseas so when I saw this movie pop up on Netflix, I was genuinely excited. I saw the movie knowing very little about it and if I had bothered to do a quick Google search I might have saved myself 78 minutes of dull and generic horror filmmaking. Or maybe not. I do prefer to make up my own mind about the things I get excited about. Still, I think this will probably go down as the worst movie I watch this year. Let’s hope I’m right about that.
So what makes Temple such an uninspired experience? Many, many things. The premise had some real potential which makes this all the more heartbreaking. A long-abandoned haunted, temple on a quiet Japanese mountainside is a perfect setting for some scary supernatural shit to go down. Unfortunately, the setting is never taken full advantage of. Most of the rich mythology from the land of the rising sun is wasted here because of poor writing and a lack of understanding about how to create quality scares. In fact, most of the movie is spent reaching the temple. Jump scares are peppered throughout their journey in an attempt to create and maintain tension. However, these scares were so ineffective that I hardly registered them as scares. Were it not for the audio cues, I wouldn’t have thought that an attempt to scare was even being made. Attempts to create intercharacter tension in other ways are made, but they are never fully developed or resolved.
Bad writing is a huge pet peeve of mine and this movie is rife with it. Character motivations seem to be all over the place and nothing any of the three tourists in the movie does makes any sense. There are so many poor decisions that are made its baffling, even by horror movie standards and that’s saying something. There is also no real resolution to the half-baked story. Things happen and then the movie just ends. There is also an attempt at some mindblowing reveal at the end of the movie that just left me scratching my head. In order for some huge twist or reveal to be effective, emotional engagement has to be earned and maintained. Temple failed to do either.
I will say there was one cool creature design, but it was underutilized and kept in shadow, probably due to budget constraints and less than stellar CGI quality. If you have Temple in your Netflix queue, I’d recommend kicking this film to the curb. Its a largely disappointing and frustrating experience that can be skipped with no remorse.