Temple Wood: A Quest for Freedom (2012) – By Cary Conley

Martin is a young man trying to solve a mystery. His professor has gone missing and the only clue to his disappearance is his diary. The diary is filled with mysterious symbols and theories but all the clues seem to point to a single place: Temple Wood, a Stonehenge-like monument erected several thousands of years ago to worship an obscure god called Cernunnos. Along with the diary and other ancient symbols such as the whirlpool-like etchings contained in the stone, Martin tries to solve the disappearance of his teacher but first must come to terms with his abusive childhood.

Temple Wood is described as an "experimental folk-horror" film. I’m not sure I’ve seen many films in this unique subgenre of "folk-horror", but Temple Wood struck me as being quite similar in theme and general plot line to the original Wicker Man which probably could be accurately described as "folk-horror". The Wicker Man is a film about a detective who arrives on an isolated island to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a young girl. The villagers all act outwardly innocent but the detective–and the audience–soon realize that there may be more to these "simple" villagers than meets the eye. In the end, the detective discovers too late that the entire village believes in an ancient religion and the story of a missing girl was made up to coax him to the island so he could be sacrificed to their gods. The Wicker Man still survives as one of the most uniquely original and arguably unclassifiable films in history. But "folk-horror" comes about as close as possible to accurately describing The Wicker Man as well as Temple Wood.

Writer/director Ethan Race has created a unique film that is part horror film, part detective film, and part fantasy film. Race has also gone the extra mile and has really done a great deal of research for his film, which is grounded in actual fact. Set in the quaintly beautiful Scottish village of Kilmartin Glen, the area is famous for its ancient monuments, one of them being Temple Wood. And the whirlpool symbol the fictional Martin discovers is, in fact, the famous cup and ring markings which are ubiquitous to this area and these monuments. It takes great talent to create a fantasy story that is in actual fact very much grounded in reality, and this viewer appreciated that attention to detail very much.

The film is also described as "experimental" and it’s not hard to see why. Race has populated his film with numerous strange and striking images, not the least of which is the tree-like god Cernunnos making love with a woman by using his tree-branch member. It’s violent, bloody, and mysterious, and ultimately captivating. Once Martin has taken a room in the village and visited Temple Wood, the deeper he delves into the mystery of the monument the more haunted his visions and dreams become, allowing Race to create so many of his outrageous images. Ultimately, the final scene perhaps isn’t totally surprising, but the ending is intentionally left open to allow the viewer to create his or her own explanation of what has happened.

The term "experimental folk-horror" is right on the mark which means that the film probably will not appeal to mass viewership. It’s not an easy film to interpret and can be confusing in some sections, but for those who enjoy these types of experimental films, this may be a refreshing break from Hollywood. For more information about the film, go to www.templewoodfilm.com or its IMDb page at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2465264.