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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 08.28.09] Australia movie review horror thriller mystery

Year: 2009
Directors: Christopher Smith
Writers: Christopher Smith
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

[Editor's note: And so begins our Frightfest coverage thanks to our awesome London correspondent Ben!]

Christopher Smith is one of the rising stars of British Horror, his so-so debut “Creep” knocked into a hat by the success of his second feature, the very funny horror comedy “Severance”. They're very different films, but have in common a brazen, magpie attitude to their influences and a trashy, ironic feel. Triangle similarly flies its influences with no apology, but swaps the gore and laughs for tightly plotted thriller tension and a complicated, twisting storyline that could annoy if it wasn't so bizarre. The lengths it goes to to confound and confuse make this a very exciting film and a big step forward for Christopher Smith, despite an empty feel familiar in films that rely solely on plot mechanics.

I'd like to coin the term Yachting Horror to explain Triangle's set up, taking its influences as it does from Donkey Punch, Open Water and its sequel Adrift amongst others, putting a group of youngsters on a boat where they can't get away from each other and sending peril their way. The storm that hits the boat is a triumph of special effects, calming to reveal an ancient, rotting ocean liner the yachters board to escape their sinking boat. The empty liner's creepy feel is given little time to develop before we are plunged into Triangle's main storyline, a jumbled but always coherent mesh of flashbacks, flashforwards, double-bluffs and reveals centred on Jess, played by Melissa George, who slowly unravels the ocean liner's weird secrets. She is presented with various versions of herself and her companions, existing at one and the same time, overlapping with future and past parts of the story, in a sprawling puzzle akin to a video game.

Part video game, part supernatural horror, part science fiction thriller, Triangle's considered confusion is trying at times but adds an essential ingredient to the complex plotting: delirium. So often films using this sort of twisty-turny storyline end up feeling bland and inhuman, but at its best Triangle hints at the cloudy paranoia of schizophrenia. It reminded me of the kind of exhausted, repetitive bad dreams you get after you've been partying a little bit too hard. Repetition is a theme in the film as Jess's future and past selves cross each other's paths, leaving detritus in their wake. In one scene she loses a necklace, only to look down and see a pile of necklaces that shocks her into the realisation that she is stuck in a loop. How she gets out of this loop is the question that drives the film.

That the plot drags itself much further than you'd expect is no bad thing, and goes part way to negate Triangle's main flaw, the lack of context for the story. No hint is given of why things become so strange. A few simple shots on the abandoned liner that hint at its past would have sufficed, but they weren't there. This does stop the film from slipping into either of the two camps it takes from, supernatural horror and science fiction, but at the same time leaves you hanging and doesn't resolve the story satisfactorily. However the unexpected lengths it goes to towards the end, coupled with the delirious feel and Melissa George's increasingly unhinged performance, suggest that the answer may lie in her own madness. The future/past twists ultimately lead to a revisitation of the start of the film and Jess's complex, two-sided relationship with the autistic son she left behind to go on the yachting trip. This ushers in a psychological ambiguity that adds
depth and feel to what could have been a dry ending that just ties up the loose ends.

On one level Triangle doesn't quite work. The extensive plotting leaves no room for atmospherics - a bit of a missed trick considering the gifted setting of an abandoned 1930s cruise ship – and aside from a couple of good scenes there is little room for scares either. But one of those scenes, a twisted, visceral shock unlike anything I've seen in horror cinema before, is part of the underlying, unhinged feeling of madness that makes Triangle a lot better than the sum of its parts.

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Anonymous (10 years ago) Reply

Good review.

I read the script and my head hurt trying to follow the story at times but in the end, it was a cool and satisfying ride.

Is the opening still with Mommy and Son taking out the trash?

Great site by the way!


Yann (10 years ago) Reply

I totally agree with this review! I was at the FrightFest screening too and this was a very good and intriguing movie. It reminded me of endless and repetitive nightmares I've had too! LOL


Kyle (10 years ago) Reply

I don't know much about Visual Affects but I thought the work in this movie was amazing... right up there with my other favourite Affects film, Moonwalker.


Machine Gun Laugh (10 years ago) Reply

I really liked the seagulls. Top knotch work.
They scared me kind of like "the Birds"


alanthefalconjudy (10 years ago) Reply

Amazing! i never wanted it to end!!!


Kyle (10 years ago) Reply

YEAH! Completely agree Machine Gun Laugh (ROFL, LOL!) the gulls were f'kin scary!!!
Love it!


Kyle (10 years ago) Reply

It was SOOOOOOOOOOO scary it made the hairs on my sweaty palms stand on end!
(Mainly because of the amazing Affects, I think.)


Anonymous (10 years ago) Reply

Again, agreed! I saw it last night at Fright Fest. Very impressive, building at the end to a place just not expected. Interesting director. Is it true, he's going medieval chiller next, with Sean Bean?


Danielle (10 years ago) Reply

Does anybody think there'll be a sequel...?
Id love to be involved if there will!
Loved this movie!


Katherine Alan (10 years ago) Reply

True that! We should call the sequel

"My Benefits"

Scary stuff


J to the P (10 years ago) Reply

ohmigod that was a scary film.
A little bit of weee came out when the shooting started!
I am so proud to be british if that is the kind of work we can expect to see.
Keep it up UK!


agentorange (10 years ago) Reply

Big fan of Smith's so I'm glad to read this film is a tight thriller. Can't wait to see it now.


Itchy D (10 years ago) Reply

I love horror films so much, so when I heard Chris Smith was making this I almost creamed myself.
Went to see it last night and it totally blew me away! Then it started getting a bit time loopy and the confusion started setting in. After about an hour into it I had to leave the cinema and go and calm myself down in the toilets, so I missed some important bits. But then I saw them again later (I think) as the film kept repeating stuff. It must have made it very cheap to make but I loved it because I could pop back to my cubicle whenever I needed to and didn't feel like I was missing out. In fact I'm sure I had a better time during the film than anybody else!


Pat (10 years ago) Reply

i havent seen it yet, ok i want it to be good...but to me it looks too much like Ghost Ship.
which i for one didnt find that bad, but yea why make almost the exact movie? ok its a bit of time crimes in there too...but nt very original.


James S (10 years ago) Reply

Thought the film was pretty good actually. I was surprised! This review is pretty accurate.

(Someone should moderate these forums as there's a lot of pointless rubbish ruining a great site!)


swineshead (10 years ago) Reply

Should maybe put a spoiler warning on the top of the review? If I read that before seeing it (which luckily I didn't) I'd feel you gave too much away.


The ancient cruise ship didn't need any context. I think it was simply a symbol of limbo or purgatory - hence the Greek mythology and the boulder-rolling analogy. It was simply the place where she had to atone for cheating death.

My main problem with what was no doubt a brilliant, brilliant film was... when did Jess forget? At what point, on the ship, does she forget that the terrible stuff happened before she got on the boat? The only representation of her going from fraught to relaxed on the first smaller boat is her split second dream sequence and then waking to a glass of champagne. Smith could have done more with that.

Despite that minor quibble, I loved it. This year's Let The Right One In.


Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

**possible spoiler warning**

Loved this film. People are comparing it to Timecrimes, but it felt more like Donnie Darko by the end.

Also, watch the taxi driver at the end. Yes, he DOES know what's going on. He's there to finally take her where she needs to go, but her guilt is making her go back again and again.

I agree with swineshead that the exact moment she forgets is a bit confusing. My guess is there's a supernatural hand at work that makes her write it off as a dream in order to keep the punishment loop going.

Scarily enough, my captcha for this comment is "porthole 25."


lbj (9 years ago) Reply

What?! Was really looking forward to this flick and was disappointed. Wasn't scared at all. Thought it was boring as hell...and the plot holes...


Harry (9 years ago) Reply

I stopped myself walking out of the theater several times hoping it would make some sense, it didn't !
Utter waste of time and money, we should warn people against such movies instead of giving them good reviews and luring more victims!


shina (9 years ago) Reply

Righ this film was Absolutely a wait of time .. No point to it was just rubbish and i was very lookin forward to see it iswell, I'm Disappointed


Vafa (8 years ago) Reply

Although it is mysterious and somehow scary, I think its message is much more deeper than what we would probably think or imagine. I think what happened for Jess is a psychic problem of anybody else! We are victims of our fates, we are born to this world without any control over our coming, we suffer, we enjoy, we kill, we are killed, etc. In many of these cases we have got no control and it was what happened for Jess again and again and maybe it is occurring right now for her! It's the philosophy beyond our lives: we are victims of our being!

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