Triangle (2009)

triangle fourstar

A horror film about geometry’s deadliest shape. Beware of its sharp points! Just kidding. Triangle’s title is as misleading as anything else in the film. Reasonably, an audience would assume that a horror film titled Triangle that features a shipwrecked yacht would be about The Bermuda Triangle phenomenon. When the destroyed yacht’s former passengers board a mysterious ocean liner and are hunted down by a masked killer, the natural assumption would be that the crazed killer is a ghost and the ocean liner too was sunk by The Bermuda Triangle’s bloodthirsty, time-warping ways. Wrong. Triangle is merely the name of the doomed yacht and, unlike the yacht, the movie refuses to be pinned down so easily.

Part of Triangle’s fun is figuring out just where the plot is going. Your initial viewing will most likely be filled with nagging questions of just “What. Is. Happening. Here?” Familiar explanations of time-travel, ghosts, and the whole ordeal merely being a nightmare will all creep up. They will also prove false as the movie escalates from a slasher flick to a psychological horror to, most terrifying of all, a philosophical one. A lesser movie would never leave the haunted ocean liner and blame the movie’s supernatural plot on the aforementioned Bermuda Triangle, but it’s what happens after the ocean liner nightmare that makes it distinct.

After leaving the ocean liner, we return to the beginning. To the dialogue of the opening credits. Triangle is a cyclical film that relies on repetition you’d expect more from a poem or a song. It is certainly a genre film, not an Upstream Color, but its aims are nearly as psychedelic. Its protagonist, Jess, is tormented just as much by a murderous psychopath as she is by guilt and déjà vu. Her fellow victims make these themes explicit by asking her questions like “Is it guilt? Do you feel guilty?” and “Don’t you see this is all just in your head?” Jess stares blankly, dazed, and though it feels like she knows more than the audience & her fellow passengers, she follows the plot like she has no choice. She is destined to go down this cyclical path like a needle following the groove of a broken record. This too is made explicit when Jess discovers a phonograph playing a broken record.

Triangle is a screenwriter’s film. Its themes are laid bare. Its characters leave the actors little nuance to work with, serving mostly as basic archetypes. There’s a humor to these archetypes’ simplicity, with the most hilarious examples being a two-way tie between the hot, dumb runaway teen stud deck boy and the rich & snooty WASP. Unlike with typical horror films, this artificiality is intentional, raising the question “Do these people even exist?” That unnaturalness is emphasized by multiple scenes set in the ocean liner’s on-board theater. Again, the writing leans more toward the explicit than the subtle, something that serves the horror genre well. Although it boasts a convoluted, supernatural plot that could easily be left open-ended and up for interpretation, the movie bends over backwards to answer all questions satisfactorily. There are multiple long-form YouTube videos “explaining” the story, but they’re all ultimately unnecessary. Triangle has its own set logic & rules, all explained within the film.

You can tell writer/director Christopher Smith had fun constructing this narrative. He enhances slasher film tropes by providing his masked murderer long-term goals, a reason for killing beyond petty revenge or morality. Its looping, cyclical story structure has its own supernatural reasoning & purpose. Because of its cyclical nature the film benefits from multiple viewings. The dialogue in the opening domestic scene becomes more significant over time, changes meaning. There’s a reason characters reference the myth of Sisyphus more than once. There’s a reason the story doesn’t end with Jess surviving the Hell of the ocean liner killings, but instead trudges on. Triangle’s Hell is constantly repeating, yet only temporary. Watching the movie is a puzzling, frightening and at times goofy experience you may find yourself compelled to relive, like a needle following the groove of a broken record.

-Brandon Ledet

8 thoughts on “Triangle (2009)

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