One rule of horror movies is usually that if someone tells the main characters to go somewhere, they’re bound to go there due to curiosity and the idea that they know better than the locals. In all fairness, this is a big part of what makes a horror movie enticing since people do thrive on watching characters act as ignorant as they can now and then, even if a few characters throughout the history of cinema have been written as naturally cautious and prone to agreeing that maybe they SHOULDN’T go into the spooky place or upset a dark spirit or whatever else they’re being warned away from.
Temple isn’t much different than many other horror movies since it does feature three individuals that, being located in Japan, want to see a temple that appears as a point of interest given that Kate is studying comparative religion, her best friend Chris speaks Japanese and is recovering from the loss of a family member. When they meet up with Kate’s boyfriend, James, Chris notes that James isn’t exactly faithful when the two men stay out one night while Kate remains at their hotel.
Whatever issues the three individuals have aren’t exactly used in a great manner to push the story, as the idea of visiting the temple takes over rather quickly and becomes the main focal point. But it is interesting to note that a very big personal issue does come to the surface at one of the most inopportune times.
The way this movie is set up brings back memories of older horror stories.
There are two men, one woman, and a few people that are willing to talk about the creepy temple that is supposedly bad luck, haunted, or simply shouldn’t be messed with. One man, Chris, is a good friend of the female protagonist, Kate, while the other man, James, is her faithless boyfriend, who she believes is faithful and loves her without question.
The temple that is written about in a notebook that is found by Chris and Kate immediately sounds like bad news when the shop owner, who apparently doesn’t know where the book came from, refuses to sell it and tells the trio that the shop is closed. That should be enough of a red flag for anyone, but given that this is a horror story, it stands out more as a green light to continue the story and make certain that things will go as planned, especially when Chris returns to the shop to purchase the book and finds a young boy, Seita, who sells him the book. If the hairs on the back of your neck aren’t tingling at that point, then it’s fair to say that you’ve seen this type of story before.
The characters are a bit tired, given the predictability of their actions.
Kate and Chris are just good friends, which James finds hard to believe considering how long they’ve known each other. While that’s not a reason to downplay the movie, it’s fair to state that this has been seen many times before. The same could be said of the idea that while Chris and James are out on the town, Chris notices as James dances, flirts with, and kisses other women, which is kind of common given that James comes off as the nice guy who will step out on his girlfriend when she’s not looking.
That sounds a bit harsh, no doubt, but it’s a common trope in movies that tends to get a lot of play since it opens up conflict later on or simply stands out as a reason why the audience shouldn’t think too highly of either man since James is cheating and Chris won’t tell his friend for one reason or another.
There is something that’s fun about old legends, especially if they’re used in interesting ways.
It’s not surprising to see that James wants to explore an abandoned mine when the trio is on their way to the temple, as showing how his interests diverge from those of Kate and Chris is kind of expected. But the personal issue, the fact that Kate had an abortion back in the USA that she didn’t tell James about, allows the movie to push forward as the group splits, leaving Kate and Chris alone until Kate hears James screaming in the distance as he’s attacked by a creature known as a kitsune, which comes to life in horrifying fashion. When Chris is attacked, however, it would appear that Kate is simply left stranded in the mine, where she finds James torn up.
The reveal near the end isn’t exactly surprising.
After everything is said and done, it turns out that Seita was never really there and that Chris, who is the lone survivor, was responsible for the death of James and the disappearance of Kate, who is revealed to be alive but still very lost. This type of story is entertaining since it does cling to a few very popular horror tropes, but in some ways, it feels a bit thin, as though it’s not enough substance stretched over the framework of a story that could be so much more.