Before Happy Death Day incorporated time loops in its zany horror-comedy fusion, there was Christopher Smith’s Triangle. To date, Smith’s directorial credits include witty horror-comedy, Severance, and the underrated Black Death. But Triangle is an oddly forgotten gem in the British filmmaker’s resume. Spoiler alert – I like this movie. Scroll past my final rating for an attempt at explaining the movie’s meaning.
Single mother Jess leaves her son at school and meets friends for an afternoon boat ride. During the trip, a bizarre and sudden storm capsizes the boat, leaving Jess and her friends stranded. When a passing ocean liner, the Aeolus, appears the survivors climb aboard only to discover that it’s abandoned. But the ocean liner may not be as empty as it initially appears. A killer wearing a burlap sack stalks the liner’s empty halls and it new passengers.
Triangle Twists and Turns
In a world of sequels and remakes, Triangle is a refreshing change of pace. Director Christopher Smith, who also wrote the screenplay, wastes little time before dropping you into the movie’s mystery. Like an immersive puzzle, Triangle demands your attention and satisfies with its twists. Smith keeps the story nice and taunt, introducing new wrinkles just as you think you’ve gotten a grasp on what’s happening. You’ll puzzle over the movie’s ending and meaning long after the credits have finished rolling.
Smith’s final detour thematically elevates the story above these minor plot contrivances.
If Triangle’s story has any problems, it’s one familiar to most movies involving time travel and/or time loops. In spite of its engaging twists, Triangle’s internal logic occasionally threatens to collapse in on itself. For example, messages left by Jess to warn ‘other versions of herself raise questions about ‘how and ‘when’ the message was originally left. My biggest question revolved around the logic of Jess having to kill’ her friends to break the loop. However, none of these questions ultimately undermine the story. Moreover, Smith’s final detour thematically elevates the story above these minor contrivances.
Triangle Has Atmosphere To Spare
Fans of slower indie horror like House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, and The Witch will find lots to like about Triangle. As a director, Smith compliments his story with rich atmosphere. He never allows the movie’s action to spiral out of control, opting instead to infuse things with a quiet tension. Don’t go into Triangle expecting quick edits, loud noises, or cheap jump scares. What you will get are some creepy images. The sudden storm clouds and appearance of the Aeolus, for instance, are subtly haunting. A later scene where Jess finds multiple ‘Sally corpses’ on the upper deck of the ocean liner will stick with you. Simply put, Smith adeptly mixes his genres in Triangle.
Whatever Happened To…
Aussie actress Melissa George appeared to be primed for a career as a genre ‘Scream Queen’. Early horror film appearances included starring roles in The Amityville Horror remake, Turistas, and 30 Days of Night. Though her big screen roles have dried up in recent years, George’s performance in Triangle lends significant credibility to the story. It’s both a heartbreaking and quietly restrained portrayal. Even when it feels like the movie’s premise may drive it off the rails, George keeps the entire thing grounded. A pre-Hunger Games Liam Hemsworth also has a small role. Not that it really matters as none of the characters register. It’s Melissa George’s show from start to finish.
Triangle a Hidden Gem for Horror and Thriller Fans
Triangle is one of those movies that for some reason fell under the radar upon its release. It’s a hard movie to find on Blu-ray and streaming platforms. And I’ve been trying to find it for several years. If you can find a copy of the movie, do yourself a favour and give it a watch. Christopher Smith is an underrated director and this is an underrated thriller.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B+
Here’s a quick recap of the movie. Single mother Jess, whose son Tommy is autistic, arrives at a Florida harbour for an afternoon boat trip. She seems dazed when she explains that she left Tommy at school. Her friend Greg, and several of his friends, set sail but a sudden storm capsizes their boat. Once the survivors arrive on the ocean liner, Aeolus, we get a time loop where a masked killer stalks and kills Greg and his friends. The masked killer is Jess who believes that she must kill Greg and the other surivors as they board the Aeolus to break the loop.
My interpretation – Jess killed her son Tommy after he spilled paint on her dress. Under tremendous pressure, she snapped and then joined Greg and his friends in a some kind of a fugue state. Everyone then dies on the boat during the storm. What we see on the ocean liner – the time loop and everything that transpires – is Jess’ purgatory. It’s her punishment for killing her own son. The taxi cab driver that takes her to the harbour is like Charon, the ferryman, who carries souls to the land of the dead. Neither Jess nor Tommy die in the car accident in the cab. That event is not part of the original time loop. It’s simply Jess’ opportunity to admit blame for her son’s death. Since she remains in denial, Jess is doomed to board Greg’s boat and repeat the events on the Aeolus over and over again.