Simon Barrett’s scripts for Adam Wingard’s “You’re Next” and “The Guest” created two of the best genre releases this decade, but there’s no evidence of his fingerprints on “Temple.” Not only does this standard horror film from first-time director Michael Barrett (no relation) lack the writer’s distinct voice, it fails to provide any real scares and adheres to well-worn tropes without a fresh twist.
Chris (Logan Huffman) is excited to fulfill a lifelong dream to travel to Japan, joining his childhood friend Kate (Natalia Warner) and her boyfriend, James (Brandon Tyler Sklenar). Kate is writing about temples, and they eagerly trek to a remote village for her research, despite warnings from the locals about the danger awaiting them.
Characters in a horror movie should either have you rooting for their survival or cheering their demise, but those inhabiting this film are all so blandly unlikable that we can’t summon any emotion. Vague dread quickly escalates to terror for the trio — though not the audience — as Kate, Chris and James discover evil spirits haunt the spot.
Director Barrett previously worked as a cinematographer, and “The Temple” has competent visuals with a few particularly nice shots that establish mood. However, its script is poorly structured and opaque, offering little insight into what is terrorizing the tourists and why. The answers we get offer nothing new and will be familiar to fans who have seen a J-horror film or an American imitator.
Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes
Playing: Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills