Writer-Director Christopher Smith is a man who clearly loves his horror. Following Creep and Severance, Triangle marks his third successive outing in the genre. And while practice might not make perfect, it certainly makes for a better film.
If Creep couldn’t quite deliver on its intriguing premise (an updated Death Line, albeit without Donald Pleasance to ham it up), and Severance an enjoyable but rather undemanding horror-comedy, then Triangle is Smith’s most satisfying yet. An ambitious psychological horror that starts slow and hits its stride at the halfway point, it never quite scales the heights you so want it to, but it has a terrific time trying to. And while it bears the mark of a number of influences, it has a vitality and freshness to it that’s pretty thrilling at times.
Though the title references the infamous Bermuda Triangle (and brings to mind that Barry Manilow song for anyone unlucky enough to get it stuck in their head since a school disco in the 80s), Smith doesn’t hinge the film around its novelty value. Never referenced, it’s merely there in the background, giving the film a Twilight Zone feel and an ominous, malevolent tone throughout.
We follow Jess (Melissa George), a single mother who joins a group of friends on a yacht trip that’s meant to be a fun day out. Only things don’t quite go that way. A Perfect Storm-esque scene later and they’re all capsized, forced to board a passing ocean liner that’s suspiciously quiet. Revealing any more would dilute the fun that’s to be had from not knowing exactly where Triangle is headed in its first 40 minutes. It’s a slow first act-and-a-half, which may frustrate those looking for a more immediate hit from their horror, but Smith’s courage in not showing his hand too early pays off later.
It also compensates for a mixed bag of performances. A UK-Australian co-production, Triangle‘s sparse cast (it only has two more principal actors than Dead Calm) are all Australian-playing-American, and the faux US accents that run through the film don’t always ring true. George and newcomer Michael Dorman come off best, while the other cast members fare less well, not helped by their characters being pretty disposable (literally, in most cases).
Yet, there are rewards to be had for patient viewers, and after a long build-up the film bursts into life in its second half. Aboard the ocean liner Smith maintains a wonderfully tense and disturbing rhythm, throwing in a series of set pieces that are genuinely exciting with frenetic camerawork that still allows you to actually see what’s happening.
Yes, it borrows from many other horrors. Following last year’s The Strangers and the recent Friday the 13th this is another film featuring someone with a sack on their head, which suddenly seems the must-have in horror chic. And while it suffers by comparison to The Shining with its subtle nods to Kubrick’s classic, it has an atmosphere and intensity not unlike that which made the Overlook Hotel so memorable.
Ultimately, Triangle‘s final pay-off isn’t as rewarding as its cryptic narrative promises, but it leaves you flushed with the unexpected thrill of having to think about what you just watched as the credits roll. It makes a repeat viewing something of a tantalising prospect, so rarely the case with modern horror films (Friday the 13th couldn’t end soon enough). And in Melissa George’s Jess, it has a heroine who’s far more interesting than the genre’s go-to Final Girl, who’s become so repetitive and banal that she’s now merely a tired formula (scream, run, fight back, then repeat).
Like Neil Marshall before him, Smith is emerging as a genuinely exciting British genre filmmaker. If his next film shows the same improvement Triangle does over Severance (and perhaps avoids the misstep Marshall took with the overblown Doomsday), then we’re in for something special indeed.
What’s more, Triangle can consider itself the second best entry in the unsettling-films-named-after-shapes sub-genre. Not quite up there with Cube perhaps, but it beats Sphere to a bloody pulp.
Find Doralba’s review of the film here.