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Triangle (2009)

As crooning Concorde-conked housewives favourite and all-round maker of musical mulch Barry Manilow once nearly said: "Bermuda Triangle, try to see it from multiple angles..."

If he had said that, we might very well be suggesting in this review that Brit director Christopher Smith took the idea for his boat-bound headscratcher Triangle from the peroxide-n-permed purveyor of pop pap. As it is, we've decided to state that he very nearly said it, and that's good enough for us. And you may find that Barry Manilow is a recurring theme in this review, if I can manage to do it.

For recurring events is what Triangle is all about. It's a twisty-turny time-bending tale, where the viewer gets to see events play out from different viewpoints as time seems to fold back on itself time and time again. And in no way is it as boring as that short precis makes it sound.

The tale concerns Jess (Melissa George), a young mum struggling to cope (a-Copa Cobana) with an autistic child. She is invited on a boat trip (into, one assumes, the Bermuda Triangle, although this is never actually mentioned), and once out at sea, things take a decided lurch towards the worse.

Much like vintage Brit shocker Don't Look Now, even before anything has happened the way the film is shot has instilled a strong feeling of unease. Jess seems detached and distant from those around her. Someone calls at her front door but there is no-one there. And she seems unsure of where she has left her son, or even if she has one.

Out at sea she is troubled by a jarring feeling of deja vu, but it is at that point that her (and everyone else's) troubles really start. The wind drops to absolutely nothing, and then a weird electrical storm is spotted zooming across the sea towards their becalmed boat.

The boat is capsized and one of the crew is lost (she came and she gave without taking, and it swept her away), but the others manage to scramble onto its upturned hull to wait for salvation. It has to be said at this point that the storm sequence is wonderfully realised - spooky and spectacular in equal measure. The salvation - such as it is - is quite underwhelming. From out of nowhere appears a huge cruise ship - at least, one assumes its a huge ship, as the CGI effect that it is makes it look like a cartoon photoshopped onto a photograph of the sea. It looks bad enough on a television, it must have looked bloody awful in the cinema, but luckily is one of the only moments that the film betrays its small (partly lottery funded) $12million budget.

A shadowy figure can be seen on the deck looking down at them, and they manage to grab a rail and pull themselves aboard. But their repeated cries for help go unheeded, and the place seems completely deserted. Jess's deja vu gets worse, people start getting killed, and then things get REALLY weird...

Triange has been described as "The Shining on a boat" and indeed it shares the same long corridors and disjointed "is the main protagonist mad?" way of filming, but that's about it. It is certainly not as spooky as Kubrick's mini masterpiece, but it does have a killer idea behind it.

The plot takes a "skipping record" approach which almost works (such a high concept idea is always going to unravel under too much scrutiny) but definitely provides 100 minutes of entertainment, a couple of shocks and at least one genuinely powerful scene which stays in the memory long after the film has finished (one dying victim crawls out onto a previously unvisited deck to be greeted by a nightmarish vision - if you've seen the film you'll know exactly what I'm talking about).

Director Smith was previously responsible for the unremittingly horrible retro chills of Creep and the intermittently chucklesome comedy horror Severance, and with each film he makes is showing himself to be a dab hand at a variety of genres within the over-arching Brit horror one. As of writing his next project is medieval plague-athon Black Death. Who "nose" where he'll go from here? (Final Manilow joke, promise).

Directed and written by: Christopher Smith
Cast: Melissa George - Jess; Joshua McIvor - Tommy; Jack Taylor - Jack; Michael Dorman - Greg; Henry Nixon - Downey; Rachael Carpani - Sally; Emma Lung - Heather; Liam Hemsworth - Victor; Bryan Probets - Driver

Last updated: July 8, 2010

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