First Look Pictures // 2009 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // February 2nd, 2010
Terror comes in waves.
The sea has always been a spooky places, and the haunted ship is a perfect metaphor for life. The ship is a microcosm of society, from the authority of government (the captain) to the meager life of the average guy (the deckhand), while the sea stands in for all the unknown dangers that constantly surround us. It's no wonder the haunted ship, where the rules of society might be turned around and the dangers of life conquered, keeps recurring in film. We can add Triangle to the list of films that take place on ghost ships. It's an interesting, though flawed, movie that tries to take the genre in a new direction.
Jess (Melissa George, 30 Days of Night) is a frazzled mother of an autistic boy, and she's looking to spend a day relaxing on the sailboat of a friend and his companions. Things are looking pretty good until a mysterious storm turns the sailboat over. Just when everything looks lost, a giant ocean liner appears. Despite Jess' unease the group boards. As they explore the seemingly empty vessel Jess gets the strangest feeling that she's been on the boat before but can't figure out why. Then, a masked figure appears to do violence to Jess and her fellow travelers. Jess has to figure out who or what is causing all the mayhem.
To the uninitiated, reading about the craft of storytelling can be a daunting business. Words like "idea," "story," "plot," and "narrative" get tossed around and they all seem to mean roughly the same thing to an outsider. Well I can say to those struggling to pick up this vocabulary, watch Triangle: it's a perfect example of a great idea marred by a suspect plot device.
I don't want to give too much of the plot (or the idea) away, but it's not your typical, linear A to B kind of thing. I have nothing against convoluted or experimental structure (for instance I love Memento), but the plot has to keep things moving forward or boredom is sure to follow. In the case of Triangle, the audience knows who the killer is about halfway through the running time and the rest of the film is a slow exercise in repetition as we watch the killer kill again and again. It's supposed to be like a jigsaw puzzle where we see the pieces come together, but it's pretty obvious from the first what the picture is going to be, making the process to get there tedious.
The film might have been able to overcome the tedium of the last half if the first half had been a little more quickly paced. I understand it's important to set up the relationship of Jess to her crewmates, but it's a solid half an hour before we get to the ocean liner. By the time everybody was on board it was a struggle to care what happened to any of them. A slightly faster first act would have made sympathy a little easier to maintain.
Although I have not complaints with the presentation of this film on Blu-ray (and more of that in a bit), the extras are sorely lacking. We get less than 10 minutes of disjointed cast/crew interviews and the film's trailer. With the film's attempts to subvert genre, it's classical allusions, and it's fairly complex structure, a commentary, or even more extended interviews would have made this film much.
As I said, the idea behind Triangle is a solid one, with its roots in Greek mythology (the boat the characters end up on is named for Aeolus, father of Sisyphus, which should reveal much to those familiar with their Greek myths). I think with a little bit of reworking the idea could be turned into a much more effective film. Despite the slow second half, the ending is satisfying and hints that the idea could be reworked to greater success.
Triangle is not a big-budget film, but it doesn't appear to suffer from any of the problems that normally plague low-budget pictures. The acting, led by Melissa George, is uniformly excellent. Her character is really the centerpiece of the film, and she has to undergo a tremendous transformation as the film moves along. It's a treat to watch even when the plot is a bit slow. The rest of the cast have to behave more like horror stereotypes, but they all do so realistically. The production also does an effective job of creating a haunted ship. There are a few suspect CGI shots, but otherwise the sets and effects work really well at creating atmosphere around the ship.
If you want to see Triangle, Blu-ray is the way to go. It has less cheesy cover art, and the presentation is phenomenal. Overall, the film has a very stylized feel that's well represented in the transfer. The dark, muted color palette is well represented and detail is high. The darker scenes look excellent with no crush, noise, or serious grain to worry about. The film's sound design and audio track are equally excellent, with nice atmospheric noises from the surrounds and clear dialogue in the front.
Based on the cover and synopsis on the back, Triangle looks like just another direct-to-video crapfest where a killer haunts a group on an otherwise deserted boat. That makes up the core of Triangle, but with a solid atmosphere and an excellent idea behind it, the film rises above the typical DTV feature. I think the idea is a bit wasted on a plot that just spins its wheels, but for those looking for a horror/psychological thriller outside the mainstream, then Triangle just might fit the bill. With a superb Blu-ray presentation, the film is worth a rental for those who like puzzles.
Triangle is guilty of not living up to its superb premise, but the sentence is reduced because of the excellent presentation of the film in hi-def.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R