(Warning: Spoilers ahead)
This was my initial reaction upon watching Triangle (2009), a film directed by Christopher Smith. In more ways than one, I would like to say that this is one of the more interesting horror films that I have watched, especially since I entered the movie with no idea of what to expect. This film however, was not your typical horror movie. I generally associate a horror film with the feeling which I get while watching the movie. Usually, while watching horror, I spend most of the film covering my face with my hands or trying to mentally prepare myself for what might happen next to lessen the scare. In short, whenever I watch horror, I end up regretting my decision of starting the film. With Triangle however, I felt almost the exact opposite of how I usually do. From the start until the end of the film, I wanted to watch more. This however, was not because I felt like the movie was amazing or anything but, was since I found the premise and mystery of it so interesting that I had to know what would happen next. In the end however, I was left with a feeling of confusion and disappointment as the film gave no closure but, thinking back on it now, I actually feel like this was how the movie had to end.
Before going into the ideas and theories behind the movie though, I would like to give it a very short review. As I mentioned before, the strongest point of the film was the premise. What initially seems to be an “Open Water” type movie ends up as a Sisyphean-type tale with unexpected twists and turns throughout which keep you invested from start to finish. Other than this, I found the character of Jess (Melissa George) to be another strong point. Her characterization and motivations were so strong that it was hard not to root for her. This came to a point wherein I was rooting for her even when she was committing murders and doing things which would not be acceptable in any normal situation. Other than her character though, no one else stood out. Actually, after the movie, I did not even remember their names. It came to a point wherein I actually did not feel so bad when they died (again and again), with the exception of Tommy but, this was mostly due to me sympathizing with Jess. This was what I found to be the weakest point of the film. In the end however, I would recommend this film to most people just because of how interesting the concept is and how they were able to execute this.
As I mentioned earlier, this film is not your typical horror film. It was not done in such a way that was made to scare you outright or even while watching it but, it is horrific. For me, the horror came after the credits when I started to think about what would happen after the film. Will it never end? Will Jess keep having to go back and kill everyone, just to end up in the same situation as before? Will she ever be able to save Tommy? These were the thoughts that made the film successful under the horror-genre. It did this by making the audience care for a character and then put her into a situation so horrific that one would have no choice but to feel disgusted and somehow disappointed that no resolution was found.
In his general introduction to the book, Horror: The Film Reader, Mark Jancovich says that to Robin Wood, “the appeal of horror is primarily due to our identification with the Other, that which our society represses and defines as monstrous.” Robin Wood himself can be quoted saying that “central to the effect and fascination of horror films is their fulfillment of our nightmare wish to smash the norms that oppress us.” This is where I feel that the movie succeeds as horror. Through the character of Jess, we are able to identify with something very unusual to us. Even though she starts to murder and do things which in any normal situation would be seen as messed up, we understand why she did it. In a way, I could imagine myself actually committing the murders which she did because of how strong her motivation for it was. She was doing everything to save the person whom she loved the most in the world or, her son. To me then, the movie was horror because it depicted a reality wherein it showed us that we are capable of terrible things, no matter how much we tell ourselves that we would never go to that extent. The scenes in which Jess killed her friends were scary because I could imagine myself doing the same if thrust into a similar situation. This is why I feel like the lack of character development for the other characters worked well with the film. By not giving them solid backstories or true motivations, the audience identified them as just some person who we might know. This made it easier to watch them being killed off but also gave the effect of the murders being easier to identify with which made it very horrific to watch.
Triangle then was not a perfect film. However, the concept behind it and the feeling which it gave the audience made it work wonderfully as a horror film. More than scaring the audience while watching it, it appealed to me more as a study of the human state. It seemed more horrific because of how easy it was to identify with the main character, even when she was in a state wherein she was doing things which were so clearly wrong.
Mark Jancovich. “General Introduction.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).
Robin Wood. “The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).