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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Temple (2017) Horror Demon

Temple (2017) - On the heels of The Ritual (2017) let me dig into Temple these two with my entry last year, The Shrine (2010) should make a nice trio of films on the subject of gods and monsters. I was excited to see that this film was written by Simon Barrett, The Guest (2014), Blair Witch (2016), You're Next (2011). A great writer but something about the story having credits from three producers made me worry. Not that producers don't also come up with great story ideas but how did this writing job come about for Barrett? Seems a strange thing but whatever, if a producer thinks they have a good story idea, Barrett would not be a bad guy to have write the screenplay. Unfortunately I think the film suffered from a bit too much convoluted storytelling.
 Opening is Japanese cops searching for someone and then making a gruesome discovery. Credit include newspapers saying that six children went missing and showing the Temple we will later see. The monk of the temple was suspected and ominous rumor spread.
  There is a storytelling structure where we see a scene in a hospital, a man in a wheelchair sort of covered like a bubble, an detective asks the patient questions. This is going to be one of the characters we follow but his identity is hidden.  They show him a video, it starts with Kate (Natalia Warner) and her camera. Her boyfriend James (Brandon Sklenar) is flying in from San Francisco to join her and her childhood friend Chris (Logan Huffman). Chris is  a damaged friend coming on the trip because he speaks Japanese but he still struggling with his brothers death. Kate is studying how religion influences myth and vice versa and wants to photograph Japanese shrines. You think that since the cops questioning the injured person is a repeated setting it is key to the story, but really it is just a framing device for telling the tale. You eventually learn who the character is but there is a weird not very satisfying ending to this device. It leaves the watcher not knowing what was real and what was imagined as the movie plays out. On one hand it definitely does imply the survivor killed the other two, but circumstances at the site leaves the viewer thinking that it would be impossible.
  The stage is set with scenes of the three out on the town and Chris envious that James gets the girl?
Chris is not at all what the boyfriend imagined. He seems fine but his voice and face is betraying him. He can't believe Chris is not attracted to Kate. She sort of likes he may be a bit jealous of this long time friend. Awkward travel conversation on the train creating a dynamic between the two men. Maybe the point here is to paint Chris as an unstable person and a relationship triangle to keep tension between the characters and to reduce trust. Chris and he telling her he feels like a third wheel but also obviously digs Kate. (Talk about over doing the triangle dynamic and how in the end it is not serving the story) Finding a folktale book in a second hand store they see an old temple in it in a myth about a shape-shifter. The woman running the store does not want to sell it.
  Later at the club reinforce the Chris dynamic as he watches the couple dance. He is having no luck with the locals so leaves the bar and goes back to the shop, sees the book and buys it off the little kid that is watching the shop. He finally gets to look at it in more detail at a quiet roadside bar the bartender knows where the temple is. Chris gets a warning from the the other customer in the bar that the temple will make you sick, crazy some of this is lost in translation. Now Chris know where the place is and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be the first place they go. Chris is spooked in an alley [suddenly film's the music and visuals are darkening] but he makes it back to the house and leaves the book for Kate. Director Michael Barrett includes flashes of scary scenes to let us know that the horror is coming.
It seems that the relationship triangle is building as a trigger when things go horribly wrong. It really did not turnout that way though. Seems that all the build up of rivalry between the men is for not. Sure Kate has shared a secret with Chris that she did not share with her boyfriend but it really didn't really matter because as soon as the audience learns this, Kate tells James so there is no consequence to the James / Chris relationship. These men competing though is so odd going as far as when they are all bunked in one room, Chris watches with camera as Kate and James get it on. Why would James and girl be screwing around when they are all sharing the room? Fucking alfa dog shit right there.
They head off to find the temple the next day. They are dropped at the village below the temple. We see the kid from the bookstore, in flashes we see a long clawed hand. So maybe the women who refused to sell the book acted to protect them from the creature. The shape-shifter, who may be the kid that sold the book, was the creature seen in its true form in the flash and then he reappears at the village and says "When I was a kid I played in the temple. I can show it to you."  The kid did not talk when the old woman poked in her head, pretty sure just Chris is the only one seeing him. They find the statue from the book, the Shape-shifter statue. Musical queue when the little boy looks at it so we know something will be up with that later, or the director felt like raising a bit of audience anticipation. When they reach the temple Chris says goodbye to the kid, he warns them with a another musical queue to get back before dark. James does not want to stay long there is a bit of tension between the couple. Photos as they look about by Kate and Chris but they both get spooked separately. Kate is so spooked she wants to leave immediately thinking there is someone watching them.
  In the temple a hand pulls Chris through the floorboards. He is unconscious for a second. He is hurt enough that they have to spend the night split up his leg and starts a fire. James and Kate are a bit at odds because of the secret and James does not even know about that yet. Kate never told James about the fact that she aborted James baby. James come back and thinks the thing she has not told him is that she is going to break up or something. Tension fills the air at this point. Kate told Chris but not James about the pregnancy. So James and Kate wander off together to have it out. I guess she told him because his ass is out of there. When she comes back and James has stormed off, she is doing the I'm upset but rebounding on the guy that is there, of course Chris is like quietly accepting her attention. She lays with him after caressing his hair and wants to be held. Animal like breathing and growling outside.
 Now is about the time where the editors went into overdrive, cutting from one character to another. I am not sure it really works so instead I will try to explain what happens to each character without cutting back and forth. So the scary climax comes on in the night which is dark and full of terrors. We cut to James trying to hike out in the dark. He finds himself confronting a shape-shifter statue in the dark. He sees it come to life.
  Kate hears the Screams and heads out to find him. "He needs me" James running being pursued by the statue come to life falls in the dark. Kate follows the sounds towards James. James in the meantime is caught by the creature? Kate follows some whimpering sounds into the mines, this may not turn out well for her.  Kate really far into the mines, she so is never going to find her way out. Kate finds James but he looks all mangled, could be the creature? She runs blindly now. Animal growling and shrieking as she runs shouting for help. She finds a dead end, and breaks down crying. Deep in the mines as we see Kate whispering as the creature finds might have found her.
   Chris is left at the temple with he hurt leg, tries to follow Kate but falls because of his leg. He sees a visage of the monk sitting by a fire, struggles to get back in the temple before the being reaches him.  He pulls himself in and I guess feels more secure with the wall between he and the monk visage.
From the hole he was pulled through Chris sees the boy and other children crawl from the hole in the temple floor. Then all the children and they have sharp teeth and attack Chris.Chris being finished off. Question whether Chris imagined the children and mangled himself? Is he imagining everything? He can't be the responsible for the other's deaths since he is injured. Then the hospital interview seems to shit on that? A bit confusing.
  I was not pleased with how this film was worked out. If as the cops say Chris was an unstable dude who killed his friends why add the supernatural elements. Sure it make his story and that of the monk accused years earlier parallel but then why the imaginary friend and the scary creature sounds? All three did not seem to be having hallucinations. Why also the scenes that establish the shape-shifter coming from the book? If it was supernatural why have the last stabbing scene? This film just did not come together for me. Maybe I missed something but it just did not make a lot of sense to me. Then there was the general classic gray blue tinge and that most of the film was dark. It did not particularly look good. I would probably pass if I knew all these things ahead of time.

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