Wednesday, April 7, 2010

REVIEW: Triangle

Director: Christopher Smith
Year 2009

Triangle is like the movie Groundhog's Day but in hell, plus a dose of Back to the Future where Marty McFly doesn't try to get his parents to make-out, but rather hacks them to pieces with a fireman's ax. This is what watching Triangle is like and honestly it's a whole lot of torturous fun.

The film starts out with our main character Jess, played by the always pouty Melissa George, as she interacts with her spastic son at their household. It starts out kind of trippy with Jess loosing track of her kid and then she is suddenly arriving at the docks to set sail with a friend and his group of pals. She says that her son is at school and that's that. It's all pretty weird but it's later explained and boy what a mind fuck. Anyways back to the story.

The six of them set sail out into the Atlantic Ocean and it's a beautiful sunny day. The entire movie looks as though someone dropped a box of bleach onto the film, with the whites blooming out to dominate the composition. Everything is bright and clean and almost sterile looking. This is a far cry away from director Christopher Smith's other films. In both Creep and Severence, he went for the dark and gritty visuals, working mostly in low light situations and thriving on the pitch black shadows that so work in horror movies. Here he has gone the exact opposite and soaked the frame in the hot sun, blasting the retinas to display a cheery morning sail along the ocean blue. Well in the beginning of the film at least. As the film progresses he'll fall back into his old ways and to great effect.

What a beautiful day for a sail.

As our characters are enjoying their perfect day under the sun, a freak storm suddenly appears out of nowhere and proceeds to wallop the hell out of our unsuspecting friends. Their ship is thrashed about in the storm like a child's toy boat as it crashes upon the walls of the bathtub, struggling to stay afloat. These storm scenes are really intense and that's helped from the superb acting of Jess' love interest Greg, played by Michael Dorman. For some reason I felt drawn to his performance and I really enjoyed what he brought to the table for this film. 

Holy shit we're all gonna die!!!

After the storm beats the crap out of their sailboat and capsizes it, they are left stranded, clinging to the boat as the storm leaves as mysteriously as it had appeared. It doesn't look good for the group and they've already lost one of the girls in the storm. You can see the worry in Melissa's character as she wonders if her son is alright. You'll notice a lot of what Jess does throughout this film has to do with her son. She's a good mother, struggling to deal with a lot of heavy stuff. Things that at this moment the audience isn't full aware of and soon the horrible truth will come crashing down, but first here comes an abandoned ocean-liner.

Out of a hazy glow-like fog comes a gigantic cruise ship and our characters are overjoyed. They signal for the ship to pick them up and they notice someone on board looking down at them. Who was that stranger? We will soon find out.

The castaways were so overjoyed that they spontaneously
started to perform the Village People's "YMCA".

They board the ship only to find that there isn't a soul to be seen. It appears as if the entire ship is empty so they decide to investigate further. The location of the ship is beautiful and the overall design of the set is rather elaborate for such a small movie. There are so many sections to this ship that each area gives a specific feel and look to the scene and you really get that haunting feeling that this ghost ship has a sorted story to tell.

After boarding the ship, no one felt
like continuing the party with "Macho Man".

It is at this time that the story really sets off into another realm, but it's not sudden. The film takes its time as it slowly introduces new plot devices that shift and twist the storyline. The first element that is introduced is the mystery plot. The characters find an exact replica of Jess' key chain down one of the hallways, leaving many questions on what the heck is going on in this damn boat. Then the slasher element is introduced. We are led to believe that there is a masked killer that is chopping up our rescued characters and shooting holes through them. Then we have the rug pulled out from under us when people start accusing Jess of trying to kill them. Could there be a crazed doppleganger on board? The plot thickens but before we can figure out what exactly is going on, Jess gets separated from the group and is fighting for her life against a faceless killer.

Melissa George, hiding from an unknown evil.

As Jess tries to escape the masked killer we are treated to Christopher Smith's familiar horror visuals reminiscent of the underground subway tunnels from his film, Creep. We are slap dab in a slasheresque scene with the killer slowly stalking the grounds, looking for his victim. Melissa really gives her all in this film and it's nice to see her at the center of a story and not just a side character like in 30 Days of Night or the Amityville remake. She did an impeccable job in those films, but she wasn't really the focal point of those stories. Here she really gets a chance to shine, playing multiple roles with different personalities and motives. She pulls them all off and really proves she can carry a film to great results.

Here's Sack Boy!

She can also bring the action. Melissa looks absolutely ferocious as she battles the sack faced killer. She swings an ax like a champ and all her fight scenes look pretty dangerous as she proceeds to go ape shit all over the killer. Now the film does something unorthodox at this point that makes you feel like the movie is over. It's at this pivotal point that you think, what the heck are they going to show for the next half hour of this film? Well my friends, this is where the film goes from the typical haunted ghost ship like concept and into a whole other realm completely. Much like in Timecrimes and Run Lola Run, we are presented with a paradox of repeating events that never seem to escape its recurring loop. Call it time travel, deja vu, or the old Groundhog day effect, the mystery behind why Jess is stuck in a time loop and how she is supposed to get out of it is rather original and really emphasizes the horror aspects of this film and to help bring it unto its own. I think that Christopher Smith handles these intimidating concepts with great ease and brings the idea into fresh pastures.

Melissa George paying her homages to Michael J. Fox's Back to the Future 2.

Just when you thought that everything in this kind of genre had been told, Christopher shows us a few more tricks. One of my favorite scenes has to do with the little hints that we get that this is not the first time that Jess has done the things that she's doing. She is sitting on the ground and her necklace with her son's picture on it falls towards a metal grate in the floor. She bends down to get it and notices that there's a bunch of metal things lying at the bottom of the grate. She finally comes to see that they are necklaces and they're lying in a large heap. Shocked, she then drops her necklace down into the grate as it crashes down to rest with the other duplicates. This scene gave me chills. Just knowing that she's repeated this for so long and that she might never get out of this never ending loop and never get back to her son, chilled me for that moment. It's a depressing thought and one that could drive you mad if you were in her situation.

 Holy hell, what a cool scene.

Another great moment is when one of the main characters crawls to her death only to find the bodies of her predecessors surrounding her. This scene is just stupendous and I love the desperation of it all. Imagine the reaction of seeing thirty dead bodies of yourself, knowing that you're about to die and there's nothing you can do about it because it's inevitable. It's a really haunting image and the point gets across so vividly for the character.

Here's Sack Boy again!

There are so many twists and turns in this film and it's plotted out so well that I'm looking forward to what Christopher Smith has in store for us next. His career has impressed with his last three films and he seems to have a grasp on what works in the horror genre. What I like most about him is the freshness he brings to his films. Nothing ever seems treaded over or duplicated. He can present a simple story that has been used before, but make it into his own creation with his own voice. This film is such a send up of so many movies like The Shining, Ghost Ship, and so many others, but when you're watching it, none of those other influences matter because he sets up such a good story that you're enthralled with what is going on up on the screen. You're invested in the characters and you want to see them succeed. You're not thinking about room 237 and how it's a slight homage to Shining or how the set up of seeing a giant abandoned ocean liner is such a hackneyed premise that has been done in every haunted ship movie to date. All of these cliches go away when competent story making takes over and the world that Christopher Smith has presented to us comes to life. Now that is a true sign of a great filmmaker.

The confused look of Melissa George.

Another one of the central themes of this film is that a mother will do anything for their child. We are shown this over and over again as Jess is put to the test on how far she'll go to get back to her son. She does things that I don't think she would have done in any other circumstance, but since we're so invested in her character, we sympathize with her plight and we never condemn her for her actions. Even when we're shown a side of her that is ugly like we do at the very end of this film, we accept that she has learned from her mistakes and that she is going to undo what she has done and change. I enjoyed the struggle that Melissa George's character had to go through and I thought that she did a commendable job portraying a woman that loved her child so much that she was willing to see her own faults and had the courage to try to correct them.

A macabre looking photo of an exhausted Jess.

What Triangle does well is tell the story of a mother's recurring nightmare of self remembrance and impending destinies. Even when we are faced with our inevitable fates we still have the spirit and fortitude to trudge on so we may be able to come through for our loved ones. The story of one woman doing everything she can to be back with her son is an endearing one and one that Christopher Smith has pulled off beautifully in an unorthodox horror setting. The mind boggling loop effect is even more effective by the spectacular visionary moments like when the main character runs into items they already possess and characters meet their previous selves with haunting results. 

There are so many things going for this film that it really is impossible for me not to recommend you checking it out. It has so many familiar moments, yet all of these moments are flipped on their head, giving a new perspective on a most beloved genre. 

4 out of 5 stars        A Great Masterful Entry Into Time-Loop Horror.


  1. One of the best and seriously eerie scenes was when Sally saw over a dozen dead versions of herself. Now that I think about it, maybe this film wasn't as exciting for me because I immediately recognized the plot device used in Timecrimes (not that this should make a film any less entertaining). But you do point out some interesting differences between the two.

    The idea of a mother doing absolutely everything to get back to her son makes for good drama. I was reminded of the first installment of Kill Bill and all the slicing and dicing the mother does to reach her daughter. Extreme, although probably not as intense as being stuck in an endless loop. And casting Melissa George as the lead was a godsend. She's good.

    Cool review. Curious about the next one...

  2. Damn, I missed Jackie Chan's birthday. Oh well, there is always next year.

  3. You should be ashamed of yourself Pat. How could you miss such an important day?!?! For shame.