Oct 22, 2009

The Long Halloween: Triangle

DIR: Christopher Smith
CAST: Melissa George, Michael Dorman, Henry Nixon,
Rachel Carpani, Liam Hemsworth

Beginning with the distinctly average Creep, British director Christopher Smith has now made three horror features. It’s almost impressive that from that less than brilliant start he’s managed to regress with each film.

Roger Ebert coined the term idiot plot, to describe movies whose central problem would be easy to solve if the characters weren’t idiots. Triangle has a classic idiot plot, and a collection of jaw-droppingly stupid people to go along with it. The setup is pretty sensible; a group of twenty-something friends go out on a yacht for the day, along for the ride is Jess (George), a waitress who the boat’s owner Greg (Dorman) has invited as an attempt at a first date. The boat is caught in a storm and capsizes. After some time a huge liner pulls up alongside the wrecked boat, and the group gets on board. That’s when it all goes to hell. Someone is stalking the group, killing them off one by one. We then find that the boat is stuck in a time loop, so we get to see the same events three times over.

What do you do when you’re stuck in a time loop and want to get out? Surely you change the sequence of events. Certainly if you’ve already tried twice (and discovered that you’ve probably tried a whole lot more times) doing things one way and failed, you change tack. That’s the problem at the heart of Triangle. Jess is a moron. Confronted with evidence that what she’s doing to escape this loop has failed on at least 50 previous occasions, she proceeds to do EXACTLY THE SAME FUCKING THING again. I don’t know how to sympathise with a horror heroine that dumb, and if you can’t sympathise with the final girl, that’s just death in a horror film.

Jess may be an idiot, but she does at least have a modicum of personality and depth, as well as a defined goal (getting back to her autistic son). The same can’t really be said of the other characters, who can all be reduced to a single trait. Greg: Goatee, Downey (Nixon): Tool, Victor (Hemsworth): Muscles… and so on. So we’re stuck on a boat, with five people, four of whom have no personality, watching pretty much the same thing happen three times over the course of an hour. Scary. It’s just so boring.

As a horror fan you accept that the plot usually comes second to the scares and kills, but you still expect that there will be a story. Triangle doesn’t really have a story, I’m not sure it even really has an idea - a coherent one anyway. This total lack of inspiration is evident in the fact that Smith’s script follows the idiot plot all the way, rather than letting Jess grow a brain, it’s evident in the endless repetition. It’s perhaps most evident in how, after he hits on what could have been a haunting ending, Smith hammers home a point that we - not being idiots - have already got with another 10 minutes of superfluous scenes. The final major problem with the screenplay is this: why? Why is any of this happening? The film doesn’t seem to know or care, it never even poses a theory. It’s just happening because that’s what the script says.

Melissa George gives a competent performance as Jess, but the acting is adequate at best, and the same goes for the direction. Christopher Smith isn’t a bad filmmaker; he’s just an utterly average one. There’s nothing here that stands out, except perhaps the look of the antagonist. Smith says that Triangle was written before he’d even heard of Timecrimes, and I believe him, I’d be interested to know if it was filmed before he heard of Nacho Vigalondo’s (considerably better) film though, because there is a real déjà vu when looking at Smith’s cloth bag masked killer.

I get so annoyed watching British horror these days, because when this, and Eden Lake and Tormented and Lesbian Vampire Killers are getting decent sized releases quality films like Mum and Dad are going direct to DVD and The Disappeared and The Daisy Chain haven’t even seen an official release yet. Triangle is nothing like as bad as, say, Halloween II, it’s just boring and lazy. Skip it.

1 comment:

  1. The cycle continues not because Jess is an idiot, but because she's human. Key points: Her son DIES. She goes into shock. The whole first part of the film she is aloof, repressing her knowledge that she is trapped, or perhaps just thinking that she will stop his death the next time around.

    "Why is any of this happening? The film doesn’t seem to know or care, it never even poses a theory."

    Remember the myth? Where the god Aeolus punishes someone for cheating death by forcing them to push a stone repeatedly to the top of a hill, only for it to keep falling? Her inability to cope with his death is embodied in the ship (and it's name).

    Yes, the movie is flawed. The other characters aside from Jess are flat. The film plays most of its cards rather early on, leading to the label "predictable" and for the average moviegoer, "boring". Most can figure out its structure quickly. That doesn't seem to be its point. What kept me interested was always WHY. Melissa George's performance is excellent in this regard, as everything hinges on her inability to psychologically cope with her son's death. Denial, not idiocracy. She literally keeps killing her(other)self. And the rock keeps rolling down the hill...