A masked killer stalking a small group of survivors – as they run through the halls of what appears to be an abandoned ghost ship – may sound like elements to your standard slasher flick – which to be fair it does – but you are in for a big surprise when you sit down to watch writer/director Christopher Smith’s horror/mystery film Triangle, because it is far from standard. Now the best way to view a movie like this would be to go in blind – with as little foreknowledge as possible – and if that is the way you’d like to see Triangle than stop reading now and go rent or stream it, but for the sake of this review I will be getting into “some” spoilers but I will avoid the big ones.
The movie’s central character is Jess (Melissa George), a waitress and single mother who has come to the veritable breaking point due to the stress of bringing up her autistic son Tommy (Joshua McIvor), and on this sunny Saturday afternoon she plans to go on a sailboat ride with a group of people in the hopes of regaining a bit of her sanity. When she arrives at the dock she seems very frazzled and it’s there that good looking Victor (Liam Hemsworth) comments “I don’t think so” when boat owner Greg (Michael Dorman) asks her “Are you okay?” Also part of this nautical outing is married couple Sally (Rachael Carpani) and Downey (Henry Nixon) and their friend Heather (Emma Lung), who they hope to hook up with Greg. Sally seems rather keen to set Greg up with a sensible stable woman and not a waitress with an autistic son, but before there is any chance of romance on the high seas the wind suddenly dies and a nasty storm appears on the horizon.
Instead of engaging his boat’s engine, and getting the hell out of there, Greg calls into the Coast Guard to get weather information. The radio is full of static and the response from the Coast Guard is cut-off by the voice of a woman crying out, “Please help me, she killed them, they are all dead.” Greg is unable to get anymore from the radio but they soon have more to worry about than cryptic radio messages as soon the storm is upon them in full force, and their yacht is soon capsized by a huge wave. Our cast survive the storm, all that is but poor Heather who we never see again, and they find themselves stranded on the hull of the overturned boat in the middle of the ocean. Things certainly look bleak for our intrepid heroes. Well that is until they see an ocean liner approaching in the distance and when it draws alongside their capsized boat they quickly clamor aboard, that is after spotting a lone figure up on the ship’s deck that strangely failed to respond to their hails. It’s at this point that things begin to look a lot worse than bleak as their situation starts to turn towards the bizarre and the terrifying. The ship seems strangely abandoned as our group searches up and down the hallways, with not a soul in sight, and though Jess mentions she is suffering from a serious case of déjà vu, insisting that she has been here before, the group decide to ignore her ramblings and follow the standard horror film rule of splitting up so they can be killed off more easily.
Our first real clue that something is decidedly off, well aside from the fact that there are no passengers or crewmembers to be found, was that of Jess discovering her own keys sitting on the floor of one of the ship’s corridors. Sally posits that they may have been dropped by the missing Heather, who somehow could have survived the storm and made it on board, but as this makes no fucking sense this mystery is ignored. Jess spots a figure and Victor rushes off to chase it down, then Jess and Greg decide to continue their search of the ship while Sally and Downey chill out in the ship’s dining room; a room that is strangely set up for a banquet consisting of more fresh food than you’d expect to find on a ghost ship. Jess and Greg checkout one of the staterooms and discover a message written in blood on a bathroom mirror that states, “Go to the theater.”
Greg starts to act like a jerk, minimalizing Jess’s fears and feelings, and so she runs off on her own because that is a good idea. When she arrives back at the dining room she find Sally and Downey missing and all the food now rotted, but before she has a chance to wonder what’s going on Victor enters, all covered in blood, and he tries to kill her. She fights him off by aggravating a small bloody hole in the back of his head, this ends up killing him, she then flees to the theater where she encounters a freaked out Sally and Downey who are standing over a dead Greg. They tell Jess that Greg said she (Jess) shot him and before Jess has a chance to defend herself against this accusation a figure wearing a burlap mask opens fire from a balcony above. The shooter kills both Sally and Downey and then proceeds to stalk Jess through the ship until they have a showdown on the outside deck where Jess disarms the assailant while screaming, “Who are you?” but all she gets as a response is the masked figure mumbling “You have to kill them, it’s the only way to get home” before falling overboard.
Unfortunately her nightmare is far from over as barely a moment after the masked killer went overboard Jess hears yelling coming up from the ocean, and when she looks over the side she sees the overturned yacht with Greg, Sally, Downey and herself standing on it. This “new” group board the ocean liner while Jess, the survivor from the first group, becomes the unseen watcher that the original group were tracking. She is the one who dropped the keys for her earlier self to find, and she was the one to encounter Victor and is responsible for his bloody appearance as she accidentally slams his head onto a small wall hook, which is what set him off on his bloody revenge attempt that we saw earlier. Jess flees into the bowels of the ship where she finds a locker full of dozens of duplicates of the shooter’s outfit, the shotgun, and numerous copies of a note in her handwriting stating “If they board kill them all.” She also drops her locket down a grate onto a pile of what appear to be dozens of exact duplicates of said locket. This is what really cements the fact that the loop she is currently stuck in may have been going on for quite some time, but it is when Jess runs into another version of herself that things really start to go crazy.
I will go no further with spoilers as this a very dark and twisted in the vein of a good Twilight Zone episode, and I hope I’ve said enough to at least wet your appetite without ruining the experience. Christopher Smith has constructed a very labyrinthine tale that though it deals with time loops is not really a science fiction story as it fits more into the genre of dark fantasy/horror, which kind of absolves some of the film’s inconsistencies in its time loop element as those very same inconsistencies could be elements showing the loops more sinister nature. Triangle is also one of those films that can really benefit from a second viewing in the same vein that The Sixth Sense and The Prestige are just as good on repeated viewings; the movie works just as well when you know where the story is going because this allows you to pick up on things you missed the first time around. Triangle is a very atmospheric piece, and the director really knows how to keep the audience at the edge of their seat here, but without the stellar performance provided by Melissa George it probably wouldn’t be nearly as compelling. I don’t think there has ever been a “Final Girl” as captivating nor as complicated as the one found here and much of that is due to Melissa’s performance. I can’t recommend this film enough.