I must confess I’m not a big fan of Asian horror films, with a few standout exceptions.
Unfortunately, I don’t like their pacing and acting. I guess mostly I can’t understand Asian culture in this type of movies. Therefore, I was quite intrigued when I heard about Temple, a Japanese supernatural horror written and directed by American filmmakers.
I thought it would have been a combination between Asian gore and violence and American characters and storytelling. Well, I was terribly wrong.
Temple tells the story of three Yankee college students who go on holiday in Japan. The plot is told in retrospect by one of the guys who has been hospitalised after something horrendous happened to him and his friends.
Our three tourists are, in fact, looking for less mainstream Japanese environment and attractions. Thus, they come across an old journal which revolves around a cursed temple in the mountains and, obviously, they decide to pay it a visit.
Despite an interesting premise – exploration of hidden Japan, isolation in an ancient temple, cultural differences between countries – this film falls flat in every regard.
Mainly, everything is extremely cliché and predictable and Temple turns into an American film located in Japan, as opposed to the cross-cultured, anxiety-inducing movie it could have been.
The screenplay by Simon Barrett is paper-thin and the execution orchestrated by his brother/director Michael is poor and lacking creativity.
Temple is an hour long build-up – only interrupted by two crowd-pleasing jump-scares – that leads up to 15 minutes in which something actually happens.
However, said final beat is overly confusing and bloated that nothing makes sense at the end. In terms of proper ending, Temple has four (!!) different conclusions, all of them put in the movie as if the director didn’t know which one to go for.
Perhaps, ten years down the line, somebody will come up with a director’s cut of Temple, providing us with a definite finale. Not that it matters anyway, because this flick is awful.
Besides plot and direction, this movie features formulaic, one dimensional characters; terrible CGI (who had the ‘brilliant’ idea to utilise computer generated special effects in a low-budget, limited theatrical release horror flick?); horrendous acting; lack of scares and tension.
In my opinion, the only redeeming quality consists of the production values, particularly the cinematography that looks nice.
‘To each their own’ is an overly used saying in regards to cinema, and most of the time I believe you can’t deny the greatness of a film (or its awfulness, in the opposite case), even though it might not be your cup of tea.
However, this saying has its right to be when it comes to Asian horror films. Although I usually don’t get the hype for them, I now believe they should remain what they are and caution should be taken when attempting to mix them with American stereotypes and standards. Otherwise you would end up dealing with films like Temple.
For instance, The Grudge (2004) and Shutter (2008) are good examples of Asian horrors translated for Western audiences and combining elements of two different cultures – although I prefer their original, Asian versions.
They succeeded because they respected the source material and added Western elements to it without being invasive. In the case of Temple, instead, the story and its characters are dumbed down for Western viewers. As a result, both Asian and American/European audiences would dismiss it as rubbish!
Needless to say, don’t watch Temple: it’s 78 minutes of your life nobody will give you back. Cheers!