I once went to through a phase where all the movies I watched were films categorized under the “psychological thriller” genre, if such kind of genre does exist. For a time, I was completely hooked on movies like “Se7en,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” and even “The Usual Suspects.” A friend of mine who knew of my interest in this particular type of film suggested I go see the film “Triangle.” So, by instinct, I saw the movie thinking it was, in fact, a mere thriller and nothing more. This perspective was only reinforced by the fact that I wasn’t scared at all, including the arguable jump scare scenes of the movie. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the movie and its fascinating story. As a matter of fact, I even recommended the film to my friends. Needless to say, I told them it was a suspense thriller with an exciting reveal.
Following Graham Sleight’s approach to genre, I now realize I was using the effects based approach, which, in my opinion, is quite problematic because of it’s subjectivity. I may not have been frightened by the movie but others might have been. I just don’t see how a movie’s genre is defined by an audience’s wide and varying taste. However since there are plenty of other frameworks to argue that the movie, Triangle, is, in fact, a horror film, for the sake of this blog entry, let us establish that it is so. To be clear, this essay is not to discuss whether Triangle is a horror movie, but rather, whether or not it is a good one.
I must say that seeing the movie for the second time does have its advantages. For instance, you pay attention to detail since you no longer hold an anticipation for what’s to come, which in turn gives you a better understanding and appreciation of the flow, acting, etc. In Mark Jancovich’s “Horror: The Film Reader,” he talks about The Other as the center of most horror films. The Other, he argues, is the dramatization and, perhaps even, artistic expression of our inner most desires that were repressed and oppressed by society. I find it refreshing to read Janchovic’s arguments on what makes a horror film such. He offers Freudian and even Marxists perspectives to the reader, which not only surprised me, but also impressed me as well. His arguments gives the genre a much deeper and intellectual discourse. However, I wish to highlight one of Jancovich’s main points, in which, our Dreams and Nightmares can be a central theme of a horror movie. I argue that this is the mechanism used by the movie, Triangle.
Film, as claimed by many, invites the audience to actively lose awareness of the current “real reality” and give way to the reality the movie is presenting. In a way, this is analogous to dreaming. More than that however, dreams also represent a person’s desires and fears that society might have told us to hold back because it simply goes against our “humanness.” Basically, dreams allow all these repressed feelings and thoughts to manifest, even just subconsciously. As Jancovich said himself,
“dreams are also escapes, from the unresolved tensions of our lives into fantasies.”
This dream-like world, is evident in the movie Triangle. First, Jess literally dreams her worries away (she sleeps in the boat to forget about the tragic thing that happened to her). Second, Jess boards a ship in which she feels like she has some memory of yet can’t quite put her finger on it (much like waking up from a dream; one frustratingly forgets a dream no matter how hard you try to remember). Soon, however, she figures out that this dream is a matter of fact, an endless nightmare. We can argue that her repressions include wealth (there have been hints in the movie suggesting that she isn’t well off) and normalcy (she has a disabled son; she might be suffering from anger issues which leads her to have sudden outburst of emotion and violence). In her real life nightmare however, she gets the contrary. She loses, literary, everything and everyone. Her anger issues aren’t exactly resolved to say the least, as she voluntarily and consciously decides to eliminate everyone on board in a futile attempt to resolve the nightmare.
The thing is, I can appreciate this. I appreciate that Triangle is, to my surprise, a traditional horror movie, aside from all the other apparent signs. I appreciate the fact that it used this particular framework. And for that, I must say that I have found a deeper appreciation for the movie compared to when I thought it was a suspense/thriller.
P.S. Some people say that the taxi driver towards the end of the movie symbolizes the Angel of Death or Death, itself. However, I think that it is quite more fitting for the taxi driver to be the boatman of hell, Kharon. I mean, he literally transports Jess to her Hell. He also tries to convince Jess that there is no point in trying to save her son, since he is sure that he is dead (appearing to have some supernatural knowledge about the afterlife). The last thing he says to Jess is “you will be back, won’t you?” in which he mocks Jess, because he is the essential key for the continuation of the “loop.” We also see that once Jess denies his offer to give her a ride, then, ultimately, it breaks the cycle. Lastly, come on… Kharon, Aelous? Greek mythology! It all makes sense!
Jancovich, Mark. Horror, the film reader. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.
Wood, Robin. The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s. Columbia University Press, 2003. Print.
Google Images: https://www.google.com/search?q=boatman+of+hell&biw=1517&bih=777&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiNsvz60uzRAhXDq5QKHXDTDh0Q_AUIBigB#imgrc=HsbGuFt_sNYy1M%3A