All Aboard the Horror Genre

It was very interesting to start of the semester with the movie triangle. To be quite honest, I really didn’t feel “scared” in the traditional sense during the entire film. Probably it had to do with the expectations one would normally have when entering a horror class. I initially expected to be watching those creepy, scary, jump-scare filled films right off the bat. However, the class began by showing off Triangle, a psychological thriller which wasn’t expected but I ended up really enjoying.

Before reading the articles about what defines the horror genre, I would have never considered thrillers as horror. Because as a kid, I never really enjoyed watching stereotypical horror films because I would always get nightmares about ghosts, monsters, etc. Thrillers on the other hand were always something I could handle and actually wanted to watch instead of being forced to watch while hiding under a blanket the entire time. Even as my taste for the horror genre grew, I never really identified thrillers as horror because of this previous mentality I had.

In the film, there were no obvious monsters or ghosts menacing the main characters of the film. No nightmare inducing figure that seemed impossible to beat and where the only solution was to run and hide. Instead, the biggest villain/threat of the movie was this masked figure in the ship who started murdering everyone in the group but ended up not being as tough as it was initially portrayed to be. This whole mystery behind the “who is the person in the mask” was the film’s biggest horror aspect in that initial part of the film before things started getting confusing. In Clute’s The Darkening Garden, he explained how a horror film’s flow can be identified with a four-part structure. For the first half hour or so of the film, it closely follows the “sighting” part of the structure. With glimpses of the ending at the beginning scene where Jess is seen cradling her child, the weird and almost amnesia like state of Jess during the entire first part, and the weird voices they heard coming from the radio all contributing to the build up of eeriness and unsettling feel of the movie. And just as Clute said that once the sighting has been made, there is no more turning back; so when the crew finally arrived at the empty ghost-like ship, we knew that things are about to get intense and there was no more turning back.

Majority of the film was what Clute identified as the Thickening. Here we would find our protagonist experiencing weird headaches and flashes of deja-vu as if to tell us that she has been here before. Other unexplainable and confusing things began to happen like Jess finding an exact duplicate of her locket somewhere in the ship she has never been to before, or the occasional appearance of a hooded person following them around the ship. Up until this point the film always felt predictable and felt like it was going to be one of those murderer on the lose, kill everyone in the ship kind of movie. However the movie ended up having this huge curveball of a plot twist by introducing time-travel or a kind of situation where Jess was stuck in a time-loop unable to leave the ship.

So it was finally revealed that Jess was stuck in a time-loop and certain unexplainable things that happened before was actually her doing. Such as the accidental death of Victor, the message written in blood in the bathroom telling everyone to go to the theatre, etc. It really caught everyone off-guard I believe because it was an interesting take on the psychological thriller. We would later be able to finally confirm that Jess was indeed the masked-figure and the motive of her murderous rampage being that the only way to escape the loop was to kill everyone in the ship. This was actually one plot point that I didn’t really quite understand. If the main villain/threat of the film was actually herself, what would have happened if she never started killing the rest of the crew? Would it mean that there was no actual threat to be had and bloodshed could have been avoided all together? And as these questions entered my head, I was hooked to the film. This I realized was what made this type of movie so enjoyable to watch. It makes you ask questions to yourself to make sense of an already unexplainable situation. Think about it…why would I try to make sense of the motives of Jess in a movie that involved sudden time-travel which in itself is already a major question. I was already suspended in the film’s own take of reality and have already considered it as my reality.

The biggest reveal of the show however would have to be that the entire film was part of the loop. The beginning scene was actually really the beginning when Jess kills the other Jess so she could “kidnap” her own child. Just as we were about to believe that she was free from the loop, we find out that she has actually been to this point almost hundreds of times already based on the sheer amount of dead birds found in the end. With the death of her child in a car accident, the entire film loops again as Jess ventures off to the ship in hopes of changing her son’s inevitable faith. Not a lot of films venture to the realm of time-loops. And it was very interesting that they used the time-loop in this film as a sort of punishment for Jess. Based on the reveal in the end, we find out that Jess was actually an abusive mother. My theory is that probably due to the frustrations of being a single mother and taking care of a mentally challenged child, she was actually the reason why her son is dead. We’re not sure if she murdered her son or he really died in the car accident. All we know Jess is not the loving mother we were lead to believe at first and is really the cause of her son’s death and is now being punished for it. Even Sisyphus was mentioned in the film when the crew saw a painting of him somewhere around the ship. It was a foreshadowing of the punishment Jess will have to endure just as Sisyphus is forced to roll a rock to the top of the hill over and over again for the rest of eternity.

Although it may not have been the horror film I expected it to be, it still managed to give me quite the thrilling ride. It may not have scared me but it did manage to horrify me through reflecting upon the evil and malice a person can do when faced with certain situations. (even if it was being trapped in a time-loop which is very improbable in our reality) The movie may have had a lot of plot holes but aside from that, it managed to captivate me and suspend me in its own sense of reality which not a lot of films can do. It isn’t a perfect horror film but I wouldn’t hesitate at all to recommend it to anyone who is willing to watch a horror movie outside the general expectations of the genre.

Clute, J. The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror. Cauheegan, Wisc.: Payseur & Schmidt, 2006. Print.

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