FRIGHTFEST 2009 Review: TRIANGLE
The 10th anniversary of Frightfest kicked off in style last night at the huge Empire Cinema in Leicester Square, a more than fitting venue for another year of the best, strangest and bloodiest horror films from around the world. Better still that the slate launched with the world premiere of Brit director Christopher Smith's Triangle. Somewhat appropriately his third feature, Triangle, is a supernatural, psychological horror that follows Creep and Severance as another twist on familiar genre conventions. Triangle tells the story of six friends on an ill-fated yachting trip in the Atlantic that goes awry when a freak storm upturns their boat. In a stroke of good fortune a huge liner, the SS Aeolus, happens upon them and they seek refuge from the ocean aboard the mysterious ship. Once on deck though, it proves deserted and the unaccountably disturbed Jess (Melissa George) has a decidedly creepy sense of déjà vu. Needless to say, things get fantastically worse rather quickly...
Triangle is without doubt Smith's best movie to date and manages to maintain momentum where his previous movies ran out of steam. The structural failings that plagued Creep and Severance leaving them uneven and disjointed have also been resolved, in part due to the unexpectedly complex and cyclical narrative which wraps things up in a neat ball. At the outset Triangle is necessarily (for later developments) oblique and for the first 20 minutes or so frustrating, and dare I say, a bit dull. When the crew reach the ghostly Aeolus it turns into what at first appears to be a fairly standard slasher flick. On a boat. But just when things have developed rather too fast, Smith reveals his trump card and the film becomes an entirely different beast. Much of the joy in Triangle comes from this unseen change in direction, and the relentless, nervy cascade of events that follow. This also means that by the end, that opening 20 minutes feels far from dull.
Those in search of the flamboyant gore seen in Creep and Severance may be disappointed but whereas those films rambled along as affectionate pastiche and parody respectively, Triangle unfolds itself to become a meticulously plotted B movie gem. That's not to say it doesn't draw on horror movie heritage - at various points we're treated to masked killers, axe wielding heroines and gooey deaths, before Jess transpires to be the ultimate and ironically eternal final girl. These elements though are all hung on a central conceit which involves a heartbreaking decision that informs the whole trajectory... to say more would be to ruin one of the chief pleasures here, but it's a wicked piece of exposition.
There's also a growing sophistication betrayed in the way Smith shoots the film, with an over-exposed palette perfectly suited to the exposed ocean vistas and the supernatural, at times ethereal, narrative. Occasionally budget limitations are apparent, particularly in some dodgy CGI over the early storm sequences, and the performances are solid rather than inspired, with George the one standout.
Smith's previous films have always been frustrating, hinting at an unharnessed talent that hasn't quite realised its potential. Triangle is a big step forward and whereas fellow Brit genre director Neil Marshall has stumbled recently, Smith is clearly on the up and I'm sure there's much more to come.
You can check out the trailer here at Frightfest's website as well as full details on the festival.