Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Melissa George Has a Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day

I love a film like Triangle. Loopy, mind-bending, refreshingly ambitious and well made. I want you to watch it, plain and simple. And for that reason, what follows will be a spoiler-free (save for my Low Point) review.
Don’t say I never give you nothing.
Quick Plot: Single mom waitress (is there any other kind when it comes to indie films?) Jess (Melissa George) heads to a Florida harbor to spend a warm afternoon on a boat with a prospective laid-back rich boy beau (think Noah from the latter seasons of Beverly Hills 90210) and his small assortment of richer friends. The birds are flying, the sun’s as bright as a baked potata and it sure seems like a shaboinkle day.

Cue the sudden drop of wind and entrance of some very angry clouds. A storm quickly rages, capsizing the vacationing crew and leaving them stranded in the middle of a very blue ocean. Things look grim until a giant cruiser cruises by. The gang board but quickly sense something is very off...mainly the fact that nobody seems to be anywhere.

Triangle is a smart film but not, as some would have you think, a total mind trip intent on driving you insane. I imagine those who call it such are the same people who claim Inception doesn’t make sense on its first viewing. It leaves you with a boatful of questions, both moral and logical, but at the same time, the storytelling is intense enough to keep your mind in gear. We don’t always know exactly what’s going on, but we’re involved enough with Jess to follow her as she figures it out. 
Most excitedly, Triangle is kind of scary. This isn’t a necessarily movie designed to give you nightmares, but there are plenty of earned jumps and since you’re so focused on trying unraveling the mystery, they genuinely do grab you. Maybe it’s just the natural offness of the creepy Town That Dreaded Sundown baghead mask.

Writer/director Christopher Smith is probably best known for the horror comedy Severance,  a film I thoroughly enjoyed even if it never quite reached Shaun of the Dead heights. With Triangle, he goes in a very different direction, offering a Twilight Zone-esque story with interesting moral implications. At times, it’s frustrating, but the script holds up through the end and proves to be tighter and more provocative than we’re led to belive.
Also, it must be said, Triangle is a gorgeous, gorgeous film. The early scenes on the water build a grand picture of being stuck at sea, while the set design and photography of the ship offer an interesting and almost ironically claustrophobic feel so fitting to the actual plot. Smith was clearly making some nods to The Shining, and while some references are a tad too cute (Room 237, for instance) the idea works well to establish a place that just isn’t right.

High Points
While I always liked the fact that Melissa George worked a lot in the horror genre, I’ve never really had a reason to think much of her acting abilities. In Triangle, she’s pretty fantastic, believably inhabiting a role that proves far more complicated than we initially think

I’ve grown rather tired of the old single-mom-with-special-needs-child ploy to instantly grab some sympathy for a female lead, but Triangle manages to make this cliche work, both due to George’s performance and some of the minor plot kinks. We genuinely want Jess to get home and pick up poor Tommy at the bus stop
Yes I loved the visuals of Triangle and while I don’t want to just gush at every major feature of the film, I’ll also throw out a compliment to the haunting piano score
Low Points
This is the only part of this post where I’ll delve into spoiler territory, so close your eyes, jump down one, and I’ll be there:

One of my biggest pet peeves in cinema is the irresponsible driver, the character--more often than not, a parent--who continuously turns his or her head at an obtuse angle to speak to whatever passenger (usually a child) is sitting comfortably in the back. Every single time this happens on camera, I throw up my hands and expect, without any doubt, to see a mack truck in the foreground speed towards our supposed protagonist’s windshield. Every. Single. Time. Not too surprisingly, Triangle is guilty of such a crime, odd considering how tense and alert Jess should be at this point in the story

Lessons Learned
When planning on fixing up two of your friends, you should probably confirm that one half of the prospective couple isn’t planning on bringing his own date to the communal event
Florida is home to quite a few almost Australians
Wedge heels can be quite inconvenient, particularly when your day will, without almost any doubt, include a whole lot of running

I was prompted to watch by the ominous red front warning from Netflix that Triangle will no longer be streaming, plus a year’s worth of quiet hype the film had built in the genre community. Boy am I glad I listened. Triangle is the kind of film I love, one that takes a familiar premise but gives it a fresh spin. It’s an engrossing, challenging, and highly entertaining watch that most genre and in general, film fans will at least respect. A definite rental, and considering its complexity, an easy rewatch that warrants a buy. 


  1. Saw it earlier this year, too, and I liked it (and reviewed it here). Glad it was well made and well thought out. Good horror/thriller!

  2. Just read your review! Definitely agree about it's not-quite-horror categorization. Very strong film and refreshingly well-made down to the last shot.

  3. Love this flick. I've been meaning to write about it for months, but it always seems daunting because it's smarter than me. I usually just end up poking the DVD with a stick and exclaiming excitement like one of those Quest for Fire cavemen.

  4. I hear ya Mike. That's thus far been my experience with Pontypool. I wrote half a view with the intent to rewatch the film, but then the cursed library got all "Item not renewable" on me and since then I've just treated the film like the great monolith in 2001.

  5. Good film and great review. Agree totally especially the semi-spoilery part. Christopher Smith is proving to be a very interesting director; I hope eventually someone gives him a little bit more to play with. If you haven't seen is first film, "Creep," it's worth checking out.

  6. Loved this film as well, especially the bright blue sky, daytime horror perspective. I saw this after Timecrimes which is almost an exact Spanish replica, right down to potato sack head (OK, it's bandage head in TC), but still enjoyed both films immensely.

  7. Jonathan: I will totally put Creep on the queue! It's interesting to see his work progress. Severance was a blast, but Triangle is so darn tight.

    Shiftless: I heard about the Timecrimes similarities but didn't realize how deep they went. What a shame! I'll still check it out and try my best to watch it fairly.

  8. Thanks for reminding me about this movie! So many direct-to-video films fall through the cracks for me these days and this is definitely one I want to make a point of checking out. So far I haven't read a single bad review of it!

  9. Can't wait to hear your take on it Jeff!

  10. Thanks Emily - but at the rate I'm going, that could take some time!

  11. Understandable. If only we could hide in a bank vault during the next nuclear war and emerge to find the rubble of a DVD store intact. Then there'd be TIME. TIME ENOUGH AT LAST even!

  12. thought you might like this, Emily
    It The Doll Factory maze at Knott's Scary Farm in CA
    Dreaded Dreams
    Petunia Scareum

  13. Great review, Emily. I loved Triangle, and I reckon it marks Christopher Smith as a director worth keeping an eye on! I really enjoyed Creep and Severance and am looking forward to checking out Black Death!

    I'm really looking forward to checking out your article on Clownhouse in the new Paracinema. :o)

  14. Thanks James! I haven't seen Creep yet but it's definitely going on the list! Smith is definitely proving to be a sharp director with a lot of genuinely interesting ideas behind his scripts and camera.

  15. Dearest Emily,

    I just watched this for the first time on the weekend and had a feeling you reviewed it. Turns out you did - awesome!

    I really liked the film. Being in Australia I've been familiar with Melissa George's work (well, early work) since the early 90s, and I never thought she was talented enough to give the performance she gave in this. I haven't actually seen her in anything since Dark City to be honest, so maybe she turned into an awesome actress long ago and I just didn't notice.

    One pet peeve - being in Australia, I can tell straight away that the non-boat bits were filmed here. Maybe it looks like Florida too, but it looks so much like where I live that it was quite distracting.

  16. I'd seen George in bit roles in things like Turistas and never thought much of her, but she really carries the film here. Granted it's a great role, but she pulls it off incredibly well.

    You know, I've heard others complain about the setting not looking like America. I did catch some struggling Aussie accents, but the actual place didn't bother me. I can see how it'd be distracting though. I know quite a few Torontoins who get taken out of films by the incredibly obvious ways they try to cover up the Canadianisms of a setting masquerading as NYC.

  17. Yeah, I'm not sure I know what NYC looks like anymore. Never been there, but I thought I knew until I watched Sea of Love again a few weeks ago and realised it didn't really look like any NYC I had seen in other films. I've always assumed it's a cross between the NYC of Home Alone 2 and the NYC of The Warriors.

  18. Just stay current with Law & Order: SVU and you'll get not only an up-to-date view, but address title cards for full accuracy! Not sure if you got to the Glee finale yet, but they did film in New's just the sunniest, friendliest NYC I've ever see depicted onscreen!

  19. I'll be watching the Glee finale on the weekend... but surely it can't be a sunnier, friendlier NYC than we saw in Enchanted?

  20. Well, the roaches and mice aren't nearly as helpful as they are in Enchanted, though the security guards (you'll get it when you see the episode) are a miracle of mankind.