Friday, 8 December 2017

TEMPLE (2017) - review

Horror is told in the details. A suggestion that is accelerated until its terrifying, a myth that is retold until it becomes reality once more, and an atmosphere that is cultivated until it is palpable. Unfortunately, Temple is none of these things. It may be easier to list the cliche's this film uses rather than explain the plot, but lets not be droll. Three American tourists go to Japan. One is a student studying religion, the other is her boyfriend, and the other is another photography friend that can also speak Japanese. Love triangle. The Bad Boyfriend. The Beautiful Girlfriend. The Well Meaning Guy. They discover a hand written book on folk tales with a description of a mysterious temple. The Well Meaning Guy goes back and buys it from a little boy while The Bad Boyfriend is off cheating. After finding the directions for the village from a friendly waiter, they all go off together to find it, after the appropriate amount of warnings from concerned locals.

We spend half the movie building up to them arriving at the temple. A little boy helps them find it. There is an unusually Western-style sculpture of a woman representing the kitsune, the fox shape shifter. The little boy warns them not to stay there after dark, but of course they do. Cue lots of running around in the dark, the pitch blackness, and shadowy monsters. Government officials in Japan are questioning the survivor of the attacks, and of course, they somehow have something to do with it all.

The film is in love with Japan in the first half, the camera constant looking around at the neon and the traditional signage through the avatar of The Well Meaning Guy, helped along by director Michael Barrett's history in cinematography. The pleasing visuals are however dropped in the later half, as the encroaching night time results in us watching a film made mostly out of darkness. It becomes very hard to make out anything, and considering this is the part of the film where the monsters are, you would hope for maybe a well timed flash of light from a torch.

At a short 78 minutes, you would hope that they'd manage to squeeze a lot of plot into a short amount of time, but somehow they even able to skimp on that. The plot is threadbare, and the dialogue seems clunky. Considering The Beautiful Girlfriend's interest in religion, you think maybe she would have more to say about the myth of the kitsune. From what I've read before, kitsune's seem more revered then feared, and while this spirit is a shape shifter, it seems like a more malevolent yokai. Plus, that sculpture seems way too Western, and considering Western influences in art didn't start filtering into Japan until the 19th century, it kind of betrays the ancient curse thing they've got going on in this film. Unless the temple was placed there to lure in unsuspecting tourists?

While the first half of the film attempts to setup the dull relationship of these characters, it kind of nosedives in the later half, with scares being on cue and the twist being obvious from its very first hint. There is no atmosphere during Temple's pivotal scares as no background has been giving to this temple and its demon, apart from the standard "keep away" and "its dangerous". The ending is almost laughable it its predictability, and a sore way to end a movie with so much source material at hand in the form of Japan's rich and fascinating mythology.



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