Please note: I’ve tried to avoid giving spoilers in this review but if you haven’t seen the trailer and have no idea what happens in the film you might want to wait until you’ve watched it to continue reading.
It’s been 50 years since The Twilight Zone first took viewers on weekly journeys of mystery and suspense, Rod Serling weaving strange stories and scenarios which they had probably never considered before but which were soon the stuff of nightmares, for one night at least.
Now comes the latest attempt to hurt the brains of audiences everywhere, writer and director Christopher Smith concocting in Triangle a story which starts out simple enough but soon evolves into a jigsaw of actions and repercussions which should really come with a man with a flipchart in every screening to jot down who’s doing what to whom and when.
As young mum Jess (Melissa George) prepares to go on a boating trip with new friend Greg (Michael Dorman), she hears someone ringing her front doorbell, though on investigating she finds nobody there.
Confused but seemingly nonplussed, Jess then heads to the Harbour to meet Greg and a group of his acquaintances who have also agreed to go sailing for the day. Soon after venturing into the gentle blue seas the wind cuts out completely, the calm followed by an electrical storm which upturns their vessel.
Shocked and disoriented, the group are then rescued by a passing ship which appears to be deserted until visions of the future start to mingle with those of the present.
As well as recalling elements of The Twilight Zone, particularly its ability to squeeze oddness out of everyday events, Triangle also evokes memories of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Spanish horror Timecrimes (Los cronocrímenes) in its setting and plot structure, though that’s not to say it isn’t in its own way original.
From the opening scenes it’s clear something has happened to Jess and that she knows there’s something wrong on the ship before they board it.
The viewer is also aware of this, with much time devoted to odd camera angles and close-ups which seem to foreshadow later events.
Giving the first 25 minutes over to setting up the first layer of the story, Smith then spends the next quarter of an hour adding another, the viewer given time to acclimatise to events as future versions of Jess, Greg and the others start to cross paths with “our” crew.
When things do really kick-off there’s little time to think about which Jess is which or why something just happened to someone else as the story bounds giddily from one set piece to the next.
More film homages come to mind as scenes from the start of the film are replayed from other angles, elements of Back to the Future II clearly an inspiration for the director.
As the star of the film, it was always going to be important that the role of Jess be played by someone who can portray both sensitive and ruthless, something Melissa George pulls off with ease.
George seems to be the “go to” girl for oddness in Hollywood these days, her distinct look ensuring that audiences never quite know whether to trust her, pity her or be scared of what she might do next, something she perfects here.
The rest of the Australian and New Zealand cast aren’t given much room to manoeuvre as this film really belongs to George and the high concept at its centre, though they do well with their faux-American accents.
Entertaining enough for its duration, Triangle doesn’t deserve over-analysis. It might not make much sense when considered in detail but at the time it certainly doesn’t leave you disinterested or bored.
The ending might smack slightly of cop-out, always a danger with films involving time paradoxes, but there’s enough inspiration in the revised take on the film’s opening sequence to just about redeem the actual closing moments. But only just.
Triangle open in the UK on Friday 16 October