Triangle Review (2009)

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Triangle Review (2009)

Horrorific content by penguin_pete on October 25th, 2018 | Movie Review | Mind Bender, Killer, Psychological, Thriller, Single Mom

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It’s about a group of friends taking an ill-fated boating excursion into a never-ending nightmare.

Triangle was directed by Christopher Smith (who also directed Black Death and Severance) and stars Melissa George (from 30 Days of Night), Liam Hemsworth and Emma Lung.

A Passage to Hell

Triangle Review

Welcome to the review of Triangle . There will be no review of Triangle. That is because it is impossible to review Triangle. You can only dissect it afterwards, like a cryptozoological specimen that washed in on the tide from depths unknown.

Many out there praise Triangle, but the Present Author goes so far as to smack it into the Top Ten Horror Movies Of All Time. Its position is unshakable. It is also, out of just about every movie on this site, the most fragile to SPOILERS.


So SPOILERS!!! If you have not seen this movie and intend to see it, stop reading everything, blindfold yourself and have a friend walk you to your streaming video queue if you must! It is so, so much better and sweeter to come into this movie cold without a clue where it’s going!

The most spoiler-free synopsis we can say is that it’s about Jess (Melissa George) who goes for a sailing trip with some friends, and then the boat gets wrecked in a storm. The survivors on the boat get rescued by a passing ship. And then THINGS GET WEIRD. With an outstanding performance by all concerned, many funny as well as creepy moments, and the mandatory need to re-watch it several times to unravel as much as you can.

And now a spoiler-buffer with a relevant book discussion...

One of the most challenging books out there to read through and comprehend is Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, a book on obscure mathematic concepts. It has a cult status; don’t hurt yourself trying to comprehend it unless you have STEM-career degrees out the wazoo. Even to the engineer set, it’s not so much a book as an intellectual mountain you climb to evaluate your progress. But one of the concepts discussed at length in the book is the “strange loop,” a self-referencing object or concept.

Be warned, strange loops come up in set theory a lot, and set theory is so hairy that two of the mathematicians who studied it (George Cantor and Kurt Gödel) died insane. Be also warned, Triangle contains strange loops in its plot logic. It is one of the few movies to have what can be described as a fractal story.

Comparison to similar movies:

Don’t take this as a dismissal, but Triangle is best described as Friday the 13th meets Groundhog Day. And if that made you say “That’s Happy Death Day,” no, that’s a completely different approach. Happy Death Day has Tree being murdered over and over again, unable to escape the loop until she solves her own murder. Triangle is far, far less straightforward!

Triangle also gets accused - most vehemently by the landlord at the other movie website I have a gig at - as being a rip-off of Timecrimes (2007). Now I’ll grant the two movies share some DNA, but neither of them rip off from each other as much as they both rip off from Primer (2004). I’m still shell-shocked from the cavalcade of circle-jerking in the wake of the over-rated, muddled, mumbling Primer, but I’ll grant it’s an innovative take on time travel.

But me, I say Triangle is the best “David Lynch movie” which just so happens, through no fault of its own, to have not been directed by David Lynch.

Perhaps it’s time we dealt with what the heck is going on in this movie...

Ending and all... Last warning, although a movie with this much rewatch value can't be said to be spoiled, now can it?

So Jess is a young single mom with a grade-school aged autistic son Tommy (Joshua McIvor). She gets a chance to have an outing with some friends of hers, Greg (Michael Dorman) the skipper, Victor (Liam Hemsworth) the first mate, plus passengers Sally (Rachael Carpani) and Downey (Henry Nixon) (married), and Heather (Emma Lung), for whom Sally and Downey are trying to play matchmaker with Greg, but he seems to have eyes more for Jess. They set out on “a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour” that gets wrecked in a storm, during which Heather is lost at sea and the boat capsizes, stranding the remaining five on a drifting hull.

Presently a luxury liner cruise ship appears, and the crew decides they’re rescued. But when they board the ship, it appears to be deserted, and odd things start happening. A masked person appears and starts killing off the crew, all except Jess, who manages to best the killer and push her overboard. No sooner is that ordeal over with than Jess sees a new overturned boat approach, with a new Greg’s crew signaling for rescue drifting in, including a copy of herself. The universe apparently has a copier for this moment; repeated crews will come back to the ship and Jess will deal with them as best she can.

The kicker is that she figures out that this stable time loop can only be broken by killing off the rest of the crew (the movie doesn't reveal how she came to this conclusion) so she becomes the masked shooter, which leads to events in which she gets off the ship and returns to shore. She finally does so, only to encounter another copy of herself at home with her autistic son - whom it is now revealed she was abusive to. She kills off the previous version of herself and stuffs the body in the trunk, takes off in the car with her son, gets into a crash, and her son dies, while she stands alongside the road and witnesses assume the body in the trunk was her. If only she could get this moment back? Well, there’s only one way to do that... she makes her way to the harbor to get back on Greg’s boat and try this all over again.

You Will Never Solve The Triangle!

One of the first things I point out whenever I get into arguments about this movie is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to construct 100% of the narrative from what we are shown. We are shown at a minimum, about four to seven iterations of Jess’ loop stacked on top of each other, but only the full cycle of one. Various clues like the hundreds of paper notes, the pile of dead seagulls, the stack of dead copies of Sally which Sally dies on, and so on indicate at least dozens of times she’s gone through these exact steps... and other different steps as well. The fact that we go through numerous iterations of killing Jess’ copies while following the same Jess through a complete cycle obviously tells us that different tours through the loop can have different outcomes.

Second, it’s completely impossible to reconcile all the movie’s elements using just science and our natural laws. There are too many inexplicable events and way too many references to mythology to let that happen:

? “Triangle” is the name of Greg’s boat, but there’s also a love triangle being forced between Jess, Greg, and Heather; the movie as a whole meanwhile references the Bermuda Triangle.

? At the first instance of Jess encountering the doubles of the crew, she wanders into a room with a record player playing “Anchors Aweigh,” bumps into the player, and it skips while the camera dollies through a mirror. We keep going all the way through the mirror, so the encounter now happens in a mirror flip with the boat approaching form the right side instead of the left.

? The ship is named "Aeolus,” a name from Greek mythology - three different ones, in fact! - which is pointed out in a display case onboard and by the crew of the “Triangle.” The logo of the ship, “AO,” is found on the band equipment on the stage in the banquet room. Later during the car accident scene, a marching band from a school is passing by with the exact same logo on the drum. Furthermore, the band is playing “Anchors Aweigh.”

? The whole movie follows themes in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, almost to being an adaptation.

? The banquet food, formerly fresh enough that a couple passengers grab some fruit, is rotten and moldy only a few hours later. Meanwhile in the banquet room it is established that everybody else’s watch says “about 11:30” while both Jess’ watch and the clock in the banquet room is frozen at 8:17.

? Downey’s body is overboard and Jess tries to show Victor while seagulls descend on it. When she pitches an apple to chase the seagulls away, the body vanishes.

? The cab driver who gives Jess a lift back to the harbor is an echo of Charon, another mythology reference, being the ferryman who transports the souls of the dead to the afterlife... although he can be bargained with, as Jess bargains with him. The Greek legend of Sisyphus is also discussed earlier, referencing Charon.

? Jess clearly has some memory from one loop to another because when they’re on the upturned “Triangle,” she’s the first to turn her head and watch for the “Aeolus” before it even appears, then waits for somebody else to spot it and call it out. But at other times she acts like she can’t remember loop events.

There’s a book or two worth of further clues we can’t even go into here because this is becoming a novel already. Like Primer (2004), Triangle has attracted its own cottage industry of contorted theories trying to explain the movie. It gets really hysterical when people start yammering “Alpha Jess avoids Beta Jess while hunting Omega Jess, but Lambda Jess kills Delta Jess...”

The problem with all these theories is that they all make grossly bad assumptions. Let me just point out everything we don’t know about the events of Triangle:

? How many times Jess has been through the loop.

? Where the exact reset point is for the loop.

? Why Jess comes to the conclusion that she has to kill the crew. We can guess that she’d been through this loop umpteen times enough to conclude that everything else she’s tried results in some other kind of failure.

? Whether Jess has ever survived the day. Yeah, maybe there were times where she avoided the accident and made it all the way out of town, settled into a new life, and then some other tragedy brought her back to the harbor.

? What causes the loop.

? Whether the loop is entirely subjective to Jess. Maybe the whole crew is experiencing their own loops?

? Whether Jess has amnesia, a faulty memory, or is just so mentally broken that she’s staggering through the loop in a perpetual fog.

? What happens when the “Triangle” crew never get on the “Aeolus.” The notes do say, after all “*If* they board..."

? Whether Heather, who literally exists in this story just to die, has any bearing on the loop. Maybe there’s versions where she lives. Maybe Jess is supposed to rescue her in order to escape the loop, but fails every time.

? Where the "Aeolus” came from and how it ended up cruising the seas in the first place.

All but maybe two of the above is pretty much skipped over in every theory I’ve seen. At the very least, even director Christopher Smith states in interviews that he intentionally left three interpretations open in this movie.

So, Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy?

Triangle works any way you want it to work. But however you interpret it, it is a finely shot film with many unforgettable scenes, pulse-pounding suspense, scary moments, and tantalizing hints that leave it all up in the air. The film is a litany of horror movie references, with the house address and stateroom number 237 invoking The Shining, a personal-hell limbo that recalls Jacob’s Ladder, and enough suggestive mirrors and birds to rival Psycho.

What ISN’T in this movie? This is like 25 movies crammed into one. Freeze any frame and spot a dozen significant details you never noticed before - what’s on Jess’ fridge, nobody mentions the fridge!

Triangle is firmly a horror movie, because it is about death and the events surrounding it. Any movie where the main character is holding herself at gunpoint by the half-way mark and then things get even more convoluted after that is worth the joy of its mind-boggling existence right there. It is a surprise every running second. And for traumatic death scenes, how about Sally, who dies while staggering over multiple dead copies of herself? You don’t have to figure out the nested strange loops of the story to enjoy it. Like David Lynch movies, the horror is an existential one. For all we know, this is the afterlife and we’re all doomed to our own versions of it.

"Goodbye, Please Return!”


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