What Now? (TRIANGLE)

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I signed up for this class not because I am an avid horror film fan, but because I wanted to have a fun class that would help me relax and get through my last semester in college. After the first meeting, I was sure I made the right decision.

The movie triangle was had an unexpected theme for me. Assuming that my horror film class would show movies containing monsters and generally dead people, this movie’s story caught me by surprise. Amidst the lack of shut eyes and loud screams that would usually be seen or heard within the room,  the atmosphere was definitely tense. Triangle gave me the feeling of suspense all throughout the movie, which is ironic because of its circuitous pattern. The fact that the characters went in circles, reliving their past actions and mistakes not only instilled within me the sense of unfamiliarity, but also heightened a deep sense of discomfort. While I had an underlying expectation of what is to happen, I would also continuously have a feeling of uncertainty; a feeling that anything could happen. This feeling of uncertainty and confusion made me ponder on the different types of fear discussed in class.

As Sir have mentioned in his past lectures, we may be fearful of two of many things: the familiar, and the unfamiliar. The movie Triangle captured both types for me. For one, the familiar feeling of the characters having gone through the same experiences over and over again gave me an uneasy feeling because of the hovering thought that they would indeed just continue the chain. On the other hand, the characters trying to change their steps and venturing into the “unfamiliar” path of the story also passed on to me the fear that something worse might occur. Triangle with its complex, yet straightforward storyline exemplifies that a horror movie need not be gory to the point of wanting to throw up your last meal, or surprising that would make you shout at the top of your lungs. Triangle is a movie that pushes you beyond your limits, and one that not only throws you out of your comfort zone, but also keeps you grounded there— far away from the known facets you have grown used to. Triangle is a movie that would make you think, and continue to think hours later of what would, could and might happen IF… and personally, I think that that thought in itself is frightening enough.

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Triangle

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While Triangle was certainly not a screamfest and not something I’d typically think of as horror, but the fact that it was shown in class made me reconsider it. After all, if a movie is shown in a class about horror films, you’ve got to think about it in those terms. It was mundane at first, but the opening scene made you feel that things were not going to be as they initially seem. The deeper and deeper you get into the movie, the more horror you feel for the fate of the characters. They are forced by some unknown power to repeat the same fate over and over again, unaware of the on-goings, except for the main character.

 First, having to experience being shipwrecked and stranded on a mysterious ship is a terrifying experience then an unknown assailant appearing out of nowhere to murder everyone. But when it seems like the nightmare is over, she discovers that it has just begun for a new batch of her friends. As she watches everyone, including another her, a clarity forms in her mind. The same thing from before is happening. She has to try to change the fate of her friends again and again, but to no avail. She is stuck in some sort of cycle where she tries her best to save people, but cannot seem to even make a dent on things. The experience must have felt like a never-ending nightmare, where the more she tries to escape or change things, the more trapped she feels. She seems powerless to affect the outcome. Yet, she cannot choose to just escape from the ship, Triangle, when given a chance or even commit suicide, because she has to try to save her son.
She is put under a tremendous amount of emotional and psychological strain, the most any single character does in the film, precisely because she is the only one to survive the whole ordeal. I think the irony is that she might have the most freedom in a sense, because she knows what’s going on, but at the same time, she has no freedom because regardless of what she does, she can’t affect the inevitable outcome, the death of her friends. And that is essentially what is terrifying about Triangle. As modern humans, we are so used to being in control of our lives. Unlike humans in ancient times who relied and prayed on gods for things like protection, food, a cure to a disease, or a safe and successful childbirth, we rely on science and technology to deal with everyday problems. To be stripped of her ability to do anything of worth was terrifying. It was a fatalism nightmare.
And although, I’ve felt more scared from other movies, Triangle left a very heavy feeling afterwards. I found myself pondering the sad and hopeless (but at the same time hopeful – it is hope after all that drives her, for if she really did lose hope, she wouldn’t keep trying to save everyone) fate of the main character. I think I felt the effects of the movie more after the lights turned on. One way to think about horror (as a classification of movie) is as a feeling. And I eventually felt it when I sympathized with the main character. With that, I felt that Triangle was effective as a horror-inducing film.
Triangle used the fantastic as the basis for the events that occur, so I found myself asking several questions during the movie. How did she enter the loop in the first place? How many times has she actual gone through the loop? Who is the creepy taxi driver? What is it with the ship that caused this loop? Why her? And so on. But even after much speculation, I don’t think you can arrive at any conclusions. In fact, the only conclusion I came to was that it was a painful, heartless, and to an extent random. And I think that’s why it’s even scarier. It makes you feel that, you never know what’s out there so there is no assurance that you can’t get sucked into a similarly ordeal.

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Note: Sorry about the weird placement of my entries. I finally fixed my posting issues.

Triangle, to me, is about a woman’s descent into madness, only for her to realize that she never had far to go. The film realizes its capacity for tediousness and tries to compensate for it by creatively blindsiding us at every turn. It unravels the story bit-by-bit, trapping us in a mystery that leaves us with more questions than when we started. But the real question here is… does Triangle count as horror? I think the answer lies in the psychology of the story as one of fate vs. choice and in whether those two things should be seen as entirely separate entities or as “two sides of the same coin”. Are the murders (and Jess’ subsequent acceptance of this state of things) the frightening part of the movie, or does the true horror lie in the way things so quickly spiral out of her control?

Stephen King is well known for the phrase “Hell is repetition” and, in this case, I would have to agree. The repetition here could be seen as punishment, as a way for Jess or fate or death or whatever to punish her for abusing her son. Or, as David Chen thinks, her punishment for trying to escape or renege on her deal with death. But is this repetition a result of Jess’ conscious choices or are her so-called choices just the inevitable byproduct of a greater, supernatural force that can cause sudden storms, time breakage, and a mysterious unmanned ship to come floating out of nowhere?

While I’m no stranger to the misogynistic side of the horror genre, I think Triangle exemplifies one of the twists commonly seen in modern horror stories: it is never kind to the woman but it doesn’t quite underestimate her either. Perhaps driven by the idea that women are the more “intuitive” of the two sexes, the woman is typically the first person who becomes aware of the true state of the world. She hears a bump in the night and thinks, rightly in these situations, of ghosts and ghouls instead of trees and floors creaking from age. In this case, Jess is the only one sensitive to the supernatural circumstances (though hers is a special case as she is directly causing the circumstances herself.) She rages against it in an effort to free herself but, in the process, gets further entwined in it. Just as we all are in one way or another, she’s trapped in her choices and in the fact that she must continue to make hard, frightening decisions to get back to her son.

I’m of the mind that, throughout the movie, Jess is already dead. There is nothing to be done about her situation and all she’s doing is reliving her own brand of hell, punishing herself over and over again in a Sisyphean attempt to atone for her abuse and get back to her son. Whether it’s an active or passive choice on her part is debatable but all actions and consequences seem to directly come from her. This brings to mind the idea of karmic retribution, but also somehow muddies the waters even more. If the “final” Jess, by choosing to board the boat and murder her companions, is making an active, independent choice how is it that she is then creating an inevitable fate-like situation for herself in the process? Are the choices just a part of fate or do said choices actually “create” fate? It’s a bit of a chicken/egg scenario.

I explored the mythos of the story, hoping that it would lead me to a better understanding of these themes but I either missed the fine print or expected too much from the movie’s biggest underlying metaphor. Having evoked the names Aeolus and Sisyphus, I expected to find something there that could help tie together all the movie’s internalized craziness. I’m still not sure if it was right of me to expect something. Aeolus was clearly a reference to the Jess character: three separate but interconnected personas, the lines between each blurring depending on the interpretation. Sisyphus, of course, refers to the never-ending nature of her struggle but comes with it the entire back-story of the arrogant King Sisyphus who tried to defy death. But when it comes to questions (and, more importantly, answers) about fate and choice, I’ve found no help from that quarter.

Like the movie itself, I don’t think there’s a good, solid answer for any these questions. I’m inclined to think of Triangle as a tale about the inevitability of fate and, thus, claim it for the horror genre. There is nothing scarier to me than losing the illusion of choice. But maybe the movie is just a metaphor for depression and self-hate… or maybe I just have a bad habit of trying to find metaphors in everything. Who really knows at this point.

Triangle

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Well. This was quite unexpected.

I’m not a fan of horror movies, I seem to have ingrained it in my head that all horror movies will scare me silly and rob me of sleep for two weeks, just like when I watched Feng Shui as a kid. I sorely underestimated that film’s ability to terrify me. Coming into this film seminar, I expected more of the similar movies… movies with zombies, ghosts, monsters, coupled with some curses and bleeding creatures. Coming into this class, that was what a horror film was to me.

Triangle, then, was not a horror film. I would have considered it as a suspense or thriller, but not really horror. There weren’t any zombies, ghosts, or monsters, and as it turns out, the “monster” or antagonist is simply the protagonist, Jess, in another loop. The movie was a bit dragging and perhaps a bit confusing in the beginning, since it doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. It was just an accumulation of details up until it repeats again, and then everything starts making sense. It’s not really any creature that’s messing things up, but the actual reality, the actual situation. It’s that which makes it scary or horrific, because you can’t control anything (all your attempts to do so just seem to backfire) and you don’t even get to find out what is controlling everything.

In class, it was discussed how a horror story is a weird story…and weird has roots that ties it to the word fate. People often romanticize the concept of fate, but movies and stories such as Triangle show us otherwise. To have a fate means losing control over your life, that your choices no longer matter, that no matter what you choose, you will always end up in a particular situation. You are doomed to whatever the stars or God or whatever that is that decided that it all be this way. I think this would give die-hard believers in fate quite a scare. In Triangle, it’s all about the horror of losing control, of realizing that your free will means absolutely nothing, and that your very “choices” are what leads to all this horror unfolding.

Triangle is not a horror film that makes you squirm and freak out whenever something moves in the corner of your eye. It’s a lot more subtle… freaking you out when suddenly an unfamiliar place becomes eeriely familiar, a jarring deja vu. After watching it that day in class, I was pretty much fine, not really bothered by anything I had seen in the movie (okay, except maybe for the part where the girl dying over and over again is shown. That was a bit icky.). It was when I was walking to my next class when it dawned on me that I would be walking this path over and over again throughout the semester. I wondered, what if I was just in a loop like Jess, just going through the motions because I had to, or because I thought it was my choice. The horror was like molasses creeping up on me, slow and deliberate. In a way, it was less scarier than the horror movies as I had known them, but at the same time, it was a lot scarier. No explanation was ever given for why Jess went through that, and why it was her. It all just happened, and sort of fell into place. Or was already in place. Fate, I guess.

What was a bit creepy for me too was that after this class, I had Philosophy, and what we discussed that day was freedom, about whether we were just reacting to some stimuli and going through the motions or we were totally free and must create our own meaning and lives. Hmm. Well, if I am stuck in some similar loop, I just hope I don’t have to kill my friends over and over again.

Triangle

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As a self-proclaimed fan of horror I always assumed I had a firm grasp on what a horror film was actually constituted of. I was pretty sure I had the understanding that the presence of a ‘monster’, whether it was in the form of an actual monster, a ghost, an alien, or a human pushed to insanity or demonic possession, was what made a horror movie a horror movie. Even the Blair Witch Project, which never really showed you the ‘monster’, showed you that there was something tormenting the protagonists, and there was something that was to be feared.

So when the first film shown in our horror film class was a film that did not contain any sort of monster that terrorized the protagonists at all, but instead a situation or, if I may, a destiny that was terrifying, that opened my eyes and made me realize how much broader the horror genre was and ultimately how much more powerful it is, in that it can tap so many other branches of fear that we don’t even realize sometimes.

The absence of a ‘monster’ in this movie shifted my views and stirred some very interesting emotions in me. First, the presence of a monster in a horror movie means that the protagonists are somewhat in charge of their fate, that they still kind of have the power to destroy the monster, and that they can tap into whatever it is in themselves to destroy the being that is threatening their lives. However in Triangle, the ‘monster’ is an unknown force encompassing the world of the main character. It’s something seemingly inescapable and unbeatable, as the structure of the story appears to be that of a spiral, constantly expanding, with every twist turning into a trap that digs the protagonist in a deeper hole, but also making the world a bigger one. The structure of the story is somewhat a paradox in that as the range of the world in which the protagonist is trapped in gets bigger, that certain feeling of entrapment gets worse.

At first, I judged the film based on the usual horror movie formula, and how it didn’t seem to fit it so much. For example, although the pace of the film in the beginning, and the way the main character acted were indeed gloomy and sad, the coloring and tone was unusually bright for a scary movie. Also, the way the girl acted in the beginning seemed a little cliché, where she was the “strange misunderstood” girl who had a lot of problems but would be the special one who would eventually survive in the end. But I learned that all these things would add up in the end. It was really interesting to see myself get proven wrong for judging her in the beginning when it’s revealed that the way she acted in the beginning came from something incredibly significant after all.

Lastly, I enjoyed how the film didn’t try to explain itself. And I especially liked it when the only sliver of an explanation was when the main characters talked about the myth of Sisyphus. It wasn’t really an explanation for what was going on, it was more of a way of setting up for the audience that something like this was going to happen.

It’s a very interesting movie, and although there are still some plot holes I find that it is incredibly well done. Despite not being a fast-paced ghost movie, I find this to be one of the most terrifying movies I’ve seen in a while.

Triangle

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Initially, I found the movie quite interesting. I liked how the movie immediately caught my attention through the unrelated scenes and the odd behavior of the main character. It was very intriguing how she suddenly seemed to be in a completely different state from the one in which she started, and that she had weird dreams and the feeling of déjà vu. In addition, I was interested in the sudden electrical storm and the ominous-looking Aeolus. I particularly loved the seemingly typical horror/mystery plot of the movie because I enjoy trying to figure out the secret before it is revealed. The first part of the movie – until the moment the killer was revealed – truly looked promising.

The first couple of rounds when the main character realized she and her group were in a loop and attempted to find a way out of it was quite exciting. However, the subsequent rounds were personally tiring and unnecessary. I honestly found it stupid that the main character took so long to realize that she had to kill everyone in order to free themselves from the repetitive series of events. Also, it was frustrating that she could not find herself to do what she had to even though multiple repetitions proved that she could not convince her group to believe their situation, and that there was no other way out except for quickly eliminating all of them before her other self had a chance to kill her. I was also annoyed that she felt so helpless even after several rounds. In my opinion, I felt that the main character should have become numb towards the situation after successive repetitions of events and should have been able to act better.

On a positive note, it was interesting to see towards the end how all the unrelated scenes at the beginning came together and were understood in relation to the plot. It was also intriguing that the beginning of the movie was apparently the continuation of the end of the movie, revealing that the movie itself is an eternal loop. It was good to see that all of the mysterious scenes at the start were answered so that the viewers were not left questioning anything about the movie. However, it was quite sad to realize that the main character was not able to free herself from the loop even though she had multiple opportunities to do so.

The horror aspect of the movie is not the out-there-in-your-face kind but rather is, in my opinion, the fact that the characters could not change the tragic end to which they were destined. I believe that fate is the villain in the movie, and come to think of it, any person – even in real life – who finds himself in a position unable to beat fate is truly scary. I feel that this was generally a good horror movie because fate is an seemingly overpowering and untouchable opponent. This realization forces the characters to think outside of the box when trying to defeat their opponent because they have to analyze themselves in order to beat – in a sense – their own destiny.

An Ignoramus’ view on Horror

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If I had seen Triangle a few days before our first Horror Film class, I wouldn’t have considered it a horror film, but more of an elaborate mindfuck laced with suspense. My untrained eye was clueless about any elements of screen art beyond basic aesthetics, and to me, Triangle didn’t have that horror film feel.  Sure, there was a masked killer and a lot of blood, but much less than your typical slasher film- not to mention, it wasn’t set in the nighttime, which is a key factor to any horror film! However, putting the ignorant stereotypes aside and focusing on the actual emotion it brought out of me, I realize that Triangle is indeed as horrific as possibilities can go.

Triangle takes advantage of the fact that you have no idea what’s going on and thrives off this confusion. From the opening sequence, up until Jess crashes the car in the end, you are not quite sure if the pieces have fallen into place yet or if the plot is going to take another twist and bite you in the ass. When Jess stood on the ship after killing the masked figure, and looked out to see herself and her friends stranded on their capsized yacht, I thought I had it figured out: Jess was the killer and she would kill all of them and die! But that wasn’t it- the film dragged on; especially when they continued establishing the infinite loop on the ship- I understood it after the second time, thanks.

Unnecessarily long establishment time put aside, Triangle succeeded greatly in one thing: scaring me- the very effect every successful horror film has. I found myself haunted by the fear of being trapped in a recurring nightmare, or having my life play in loop, naively thinking that I’ve found an escape (like Jess did) only to find myself back at square one.

The whole film points me towards the power of the human mind. Did Jess ever escape? Was it all in her head? Was she crazy because of the seemingly abusive relationship she had with her son’s father? I’ve always been afraid of the unlimited potential of the human brain, it’s ability to understand complex mathematics and abstract concepts, and I sometimes wonder if this entire universe is simply a daydream from some laboratory brain. What if Jess had died in the storm and everything that was happening to her was the result of abusing her child?

Having said that, I came up with my own conclusion that Jess was trapped in her own internal hell, more of a state of mind than a physical place, where her conscience and guilt were punishing her- not only for how she treated her son, but possibly because her life had not turned out the way she wanted. Hey, it’s an easy way to grasp the whole idea of the film, but in my opinion, the human mind is the scariest place on Earth.