Triangle: The horror genre

As the movie “Triangle” began, one of my set expectations for the film was that I was going to be scared since it was classified as “horror.” However, as the film began to progress, I realized that it blurred the lines among genres even more, particularly the lines between the psychological thriller and horror genres.

The horror genre, as defined by David J. Russell (1998), is “centered around its monster character and the conflict arising in the fantastical and unreal monster’s relationship with reality” (p. 2). In typical horror films, the monster is usually the strange, weird “other.” What makes Triangle interesting and unique as a horror film is that the monster the protagonist was battling with was also herself. At the end of a horror film, people usually breathe a sigh of relief because the protagonist has finally defeated the monster. Triangle leaves the viewers frustrated because no one knows when the horrific cycle will end. Moreover, the horror genre is also the genre of fatalism. This means that events are predetermined, and it reduces us to the most primitive state—fear. In Triangle, the deviation from what was deemed to be normal, the sensation of déjà vu, and the feeling of helplessness was translated well by the actress who portrayed Jess. Perhaps, what makes it scarier is the possibility that it can happen in reality. This is strengthened by the fact that no supernatural being was present in the story.

Additionally, Triangle is a horror movie which is effects-based and move-based. It can be categorized under effects-based because of the feeling that I personally felt during and after the movie. The movie started with a montage of scenes depicting Jess as distressed, then it was followed by a scene showing a somewhat ordinary day in their household. However, because of the opening sequence, there was already an expectation set by the audience that something was about to go wrong, and that their day was going to be far from normal. Before Jess and her friends boarded The Aeolous, snippets from what was going to happen to the group, which resulted in Jess’ sense of déjà vu, was portrayed in the movie through a dream. This technique gives the audience reason to become even more agitated. When the movie finally ended, it left me wondering if the cycle will ever end, even if it was entirely fictional.

Triangle can likewise be seen as a move-based horror film. According to John Clute, there are four basic moves in horror film namely, the sighting, the thickening, the revel, and the aftermath. As a move-based horror film, it was quite unconventional because the “monster” that Jess was battling (and the monster that she saw) was herself. The thickening and the revel was somehow intertwined because of the “dreams” that Jess saw before her real self boarded the ship. What was more interesting was the aftermath of the movie because of its cyclic nature. No one knows when these horrific events about Jess will end, and it just keeps the audience off the edge of their seats all throughout the movie. As a viewer, I also kept on wondering as to when Jess will be able to go back to normality, thus, rendering the writing of the film as effective.

In the history of horror, it has been observed that “horror is centrally concerned with the encounter between the known and the unknown, in which the unknown is implicitly dangerous and hostile” (Janovich, 2002, p. 8). Furthermore, Robin Wood also argues that “the true milieu of horror is the family” (Janovich, 2002, p. 8). Triangle also deviates from the horror films which are also considered as “narrative histories.” This means that there is a “central protagonist in the story, and it usually ends in destruction or failure or in the character’s happiness or sense of fulfillment” (Janovich, 2002, p. 9). Triangle, just like other horror movies, also has a story about family. Jess’s autistic son is her true motivation to be able to get back to the “reality” that she knows, and she completely loses it when she finds out that no matter what she does, her son is dead. Here, we can see Jess’s character being in conflict with herself. She was not able to accept reality that she is faced with. Thus, the monster is born and the cycle aboard the ship of Aeolous continues.

Triangle is a horror movie which blurs the lines between genres even more. Since most horror movies were seen as formulaic, it was refreshing to watch a film that refuted the desire of the character, and of the audience, to revert back to the comforts of normality.

Source: Janovich, M. (2002). Horror, The Film Reader. London: Routledge.


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