I was gonna say this is the best British horror film since The Descent but making such a nationalistic categorisation is pretty hard these days. The first on screen title tells us this film is funded by the National Lottery but then we hear American accents and see Florida street signs. Edgar Wright had a similar problem in trying to write a list of his favourite British films of recent years, a lot of his first choices turned out to be more American in origin than British. But here at least we have a British writer/director using mainly British money, he’s just telling his tale with an American backdrop (actually, The Descent had that same setup too, ah go figure). Regardless of national distinctions, this is still an unusual and well made horror film. But it poses quite a challenge for the marketing team and critics as the film hinges on some major twists that make it hard to talk about the film without spoiling. I feel the trailer reveals too much for one thing and would not recommend watching it if you feel at all inclined to see this film. If you want a pithy summing up of it, think The Shining meets Primer. On a boat.
First we had Guy Pearce of Neighbours making Memento, now Melissa George, formerly of Home & Away, makes Triangle. What is it with Ozzie soap stars and one-word headfuck movies? Here she takes the lead as Jess, a single mom who takes up an offer to go on a sailing trip with five people she barely knows. In the Bermuda triangle. Never wise in a horror film. The boat capsizes in a storm and the survivors seek refuge on a huge ship that mysteriously appears. It’s deserted and Jess and the gang start wandering around the spooky corridors, eventually getting picked off one by one by an unseen assailant. Now so far, so every-third-horror-film-made-in-the-80s. However, the game gets raised here not just by some great camera work and a mostly likeable (or at least unpunchable) cast but by the timewarping, structural gymnastics that kick in. Again, hard to talk about without spoiling the fun of it all but suffice to say, you need to keep your wits about you ala Memento. There’s a bit too much running around dark corridors and screaming for my liking, I think it would have been more interesting to play up the black humour and absurdity inherent in the temporal disfunctions but it still works really well and has a few cool tricks up it’s sleeve. It manages to transcend the genre trappings and come up with something a bit different from what you’ve seen before.
After his debut Creep and then Severance, Triangle represents a quantum leap for writer/director Chris Smith. I liked those earlier films but here he’s really getting to grips with the camera and a directorial vision is starting to emerge. The title sequence and the ending in particular are very well constructed, the framing and cutting pulling together in a way I would have liked to have seen more of during the main part of the film. The whole thing was made for a pretty low budget and he makes it look a lot more expensive, it never feels like a cheapie-quickie horror flick. I’m now very much looking forward to his next movie, a blood soaked medieval adventure apparently.
Ironically, the main issue I have with the film is The Shining connection. There’s just a few too many references to it (yeah, I know, this coming from the guy who made the Racing Green video!). Let’s see – the ship is a virtual stand-in for The Overlook Hotel with art deco interiors and even a ballroom. Shit gets real in Room 237. Melancholic 20s music echoes through the corridors. Numerous shots of mirrors showing characters doubled. A character writes the same phrase over and over on sheets of paper. Messages written in blood seen through a mirror. The first named character in the film is a Jack. And a few more. The problem with all this is that no greater point seems to be made other than they must really like The Shining. When people make allusions to that film, it’s frustrating that they only take from the surface of it and rarely make the kind of wonderfully rich subtext Kubrick did. But thats why he’s Kubrick. Maybe I just pick up on all this because I’m such a Kubrick fanboy (see previous post for evidence) and most people won’t be bothered by it at all. I would still definitely recommend checking this movie out, it’s a nautical mile ahead of the remakes-of-superior-foreign-or-70s-horrors and torture-bore movies of recent years.
TRIANGLE is out on October 16th in the UK.