Directed By: Michael Barrett
Foreign shores, ominous warnings, spooky children, Temple has everything that should make it good, yet why is it so uneventful? I’ll attempt to answer all that and more just as soon as I think about how you waste so much potential.
A man is wheeled through a hospital while a police detective waits to question him. The man is sealed in what looks like a vacuum pack for his injuries and honestly looks a little worse for wear. It seems something has happened to his two friends and the police want to know. Given that they make a big show of playing the footage that our rough looking friend took I thought this was going to be in the found-footage genre but instead we just get little snippets as we’re delivered a much more conventionally told tale.
The man is Chris and he’s travelled to Japan with his friend Kate and her boyfriend James. We get some awkward backstory about Chris and that he had a breakdown but he’s alright now and James manages to live up to the name of all James’ by being kind of a dick for no reason.
While in a shop in Japan they find a book on folk lore and when they try to buy it the shopkeeper’s eyes bug out and she tells them it’s not for sale, which is something that don’t think is all that weird at all. When Chris does manage to get the book and heads to a local bar, one of the patrons all but warns him off going to the temple and the surrounding village. We’re not dealing with the smartest characters here so they continue to brush off anything ominous as being those wacky Japanese people and their cryptic warnings. They’re certainly not deterred when they get to the village and meet a man who, as a youngster, went to visit the temple and came back holding his own eyes in his hands. This garners a raised eyebrow from our guys, but they trek off anyway and to their doom.
So lets get the good out of the way first. I’m all for the setting being as Japan can never look bad on camera. Though once our group trek through the woods to get to the titular temple it could just as easily be Vancouver. Nevertheless the setting goes a long way to drawing you in, even if everything else fights against it.
The biggest issue for me is that it feels so incredibly butchered. It’s better to think that than just assume it’s been poorly written. The movie brings up Chris’ questionable attraction to his friend to make it appear as though there’s something to it, but it’s never quite acknowleged. I don’t need one character to declare their love for the other in order for it to make sense, but it feels unresolved by the time the credits roll. When the group get to the temple Kate mentions that she hasn’t told James yet that she got rid of his baby. This moment is as out of leftfield and as unnanounced as it was when I just typed out that sentence.
The climax itself is such a mess of images and ideas that it looks as though the filmmakers simply ran out of time and so assembled whatever they had in editing and hoped for the best. The movie clearly wants to address the question of Chris’ sanity (And it’s not hard to picture a version of this movie that plays on that) but we’re treated to events that Chris doesn’t see, and points of view that he doesn’t share (Or in hindsight make sense) so a late attempt to throw doubt over everything falls flat, as does a last minute reveal which just solidifies everything we’e just seen and already thought. It’s not hard to picture a movie in which that last minute reveal does work the way it’s supposed to, but as it is it comes across a little embarrassing.