Available on Netflix
Temple is an Americans-Peeing-Themselves-in-Japan flick, in the vein of The Grudge franchise. The main characters are a couple, James and Some Girl whose name I figured out only on my third run through, and Some Girl's Japanophile friend, Chris. (For those interested, Some Girl is named Kate, but frankly, she's a girl who exists to set up the story. It really doesn't matter.)
The reason for the trip is allegedly Some Girl's religious studies coursework; she wants to take pictures of obscure temples. James is along for the ride, because every horror movie needs a significant other who doesn't quite grasp the situation, and obviously women can't travel without their significant others, duh.
There really isn't a good reason for him to be there, since Chris acts as translator and guide, but as arbitrary plot necessities go, this one is acceptable.
The film is shot in a mixture of traditional cinematography and found-footage style, which for me is usually a huge negative, but in this case it works. The found footage sections mesh well with the story and don't feel forced or "just because." Even more importantly, they don't annoy with over-the-top shaking or swinging the camera around.
The story isn't strong here. We know early on that the temple in question is a Very Bad Place, we know some kids vanished without a trace, we know our heroes did not have a pleasant visit, and that's about it. Our expectation with this type of movie is that over time the main characters will discover some underlying reason for the Bad, but they really don't.
Like all Very Bad Places, the temple of titular fame has ways of drawing people to it, in this case a journal our heroes find in a used book shop. You’ll recall that Chris speaks Japanese and is able to read the journal to find out how to get to the temple pictured in it. However, it seems his reading skills aren’t that great, because the film missed out on a simple opportunity to give us some background information. One assumes the journal says something other than “There’s a temple on the mountain, follow the path and take a right at the statue,” but Chris doesn’t find anything in it of interest. Perhaps they avoided it as too “obvious” but I feel like the writers could have taken two minutes to throw in some exposition here without it bogging down the story too much.
Instead we get: Once upon a time there was a place where evil took hold, and now it likes to kill people and stuff, the end.
It's not what we've learned to expect from these stories, even the home-grown Japanese variety, which tend toward unsatisfying conclusions.
Of course once Some Girl, James, and Chris actually reach the temple, there’s drama, they split up, and the place begins to do its thing. I would have liked a little more build-up in addition to some background info at this point. Either would have really upped the creepy factor, which was sadly lacking. I felt like the film was trying to toe the line between creepy and gory and not really succeeding in either arena as a result.
That said, I found the film entertaining enough. I won't be kept awake at night thinking about it, but I don't resent the hour and a half I spent watching, either.
*/***** for Horror
***/***** for Entertainment
No stars for hilarity on this one; while it's not Oscar material by a long shot, nothing was so bad that I found myself laughing.