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Triangle (2009)
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Director Chris Smith On Triangle
The British director on his creepy new horror

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New horror movie Triangle is set to have its world premiere at Frightfest next month, before release on October 16. To tie in with our exclusive peek at the movie's trailer, here's an interview with the movie's director Chris Smith, where he tells us about his inspiration, his tricksy plot, and why he's secretly happy about the swine flu panic...

Hey Chris, how are things going? You’re filming Black Death now, right?
Yes, it was like one of those jobs you dream of, when we'd locked the sound on Triangle and we were straight off to Black Death. Now we're obviously over the moon about Triangle being on at Frightfest as well, which is great.

How did Triangle come about?
I came up with the idea for the film about four years ago, in between doing Creep and Severance, and then it took me two years just to write it. I was trying to make a movie that gives you the effect that Memento did, but in a movie that works in a classical way, so it doesn’t actually have the disruptive nature that Memento has. So it’s a straight linear narrative, but one that turns around on itself like a whirlpool.

It's always really scary when people first see it. I didn’t hear anything at first and then I get this gush of love phonecall from [Frightfest co-ordinator] Alan Jones... so yeah, I was over the moon.

A great turn of phrase there, 'Gush of Love'
It sounds like some kind of dodgy porno...

So what gave you this idea?
Well, it's hard to say without giving away the whole twist, but basically I was a huge fan of the movie Dead Of Night, which has a circular narrative, so I was trying to think of a story that would work in a circle.

The idea essentially was, 'What is déjà vu? What if you really had been there before?'
The idea essentially was "What is 'déjà vu'"? That feeling that you've been somewhere before: what if you have been there before? I liked the idea of, what if the Bermuda triangle exists and it was a glitch in time, or part of this huge idea of déjà vu, so though the title still remains, it's not really a movie about the Bermuda Triangle.

I thought, “What would it be like if you were in a horror movie and the person you're most scared of is yourself?” I was trying to make a story that has those elements that doesn’t end up being like Jacob's Ladder, which I love, but doesn't use the same devices, which I've seen done badly in other films. Obviously with the trailer that's been released, they're trying to give you enough to get you intrigued, but not enough to spoil it.

The most intriguing bit is where Melissa George's character is pointing a shotgun and then you switch around the camera... and there's two of her.
Kind of a Matrix shot, that, I actually struggled with it. It kind of is, but it's different.

And then there’s the bit where Melissa stepping out onto the pile of bodies on the deck...
Well, there's this idea that there's an accumulation to it: you're in a loop and you keep coming back to the loop, but are you leaving behind traces of your previous visit? As you can imagine, when we came up with the idea, it was suddenly this great concept, but I had no characters, no story, and I came a bit obsessed with it, as other things got in the way.

How did you go about filming on a liner? Did you make your own or did you hire one?
We built half of a real one, and other half was a big set. We built this huge ship on a jetty on the edge of the ocean in Australia, Titantic style. I had this huge row the 'completion guarantor' who looks after the money. I said if we build it on the edge of the water it will give you that sense you can't really put a value on. It's something you can't really explain to money people, but if you're actually near water, with real wind and real sea, that will have an effect on the actors and the film itself, whereas being in a green screen in a studio, which is obviously the cheaper version, is much worse.

Eventually, after many rows, he gave in and we did it that way and I think it has a real noticeable effect, what with whales a swimming by the ship. I've seen movies done entirely with green screen and they're often rubbish and I didn’t want to go that way, so we had the pleasure of building a whole big liner. I'm glad that the majority of the movie is done for real, which is a good thing.

So it was a bit of a labour of love?
Well, I'm not sure whether it was a labour of love: I think I went a big mad, actually. I became obsessed with the idea that once you started something, you had to see it through, and I always wanted to make a movie that had this Dead Of Night feel. But I didn’t know, even to the very end of the editing, whether you could cut a movie together in a way that forms this kind of perfect loop, if you like.

So next you’re filming Black Death. How did that come about?
I was editing Triangle and I had this script come through which I thought was a terrific idea, set in medieval England, in the time of the Black Death, about a dark knight (Sean Bean) who wants to take this young monk with him in search of a village which is free of the plague.

It's a period I have always loved, a moment in history lessons where you're really sitting up and listening, so as soon as it landed on my desk I read it and I started saying to the guys the changes I wanted to make, which luckily they wanted to go with.

It's been a dream actually, the whole thing, especially Sean; Sean's great. It's one of those films with a straightforward narrative, compared to how complicated making Triangle was, because Triangle is a movie which is like going from A to Z, but you have to go through every loop you can. With Black Death, it's more "Let's just have a huge battle."

Was it strange doing a period piece for the first time?
We had this rule where we didn’t want it to be too 'olde Englande', but I didn’t want it to be modern either, so we came up with a very good balance, modelled on the Gladiator dialogue: a little bit period but not so much that it annoys you, no 'prithees' and 'haths'. I've loved making Black Death, and I think it'll be a cracking little film actually, and I love Sean. Sean is the king. And he’s a big fan of you guys.

Do you feel that it's slightly timely in certain aspects, with the current fear of infectious viruses about?
Lucky, eh? Every time a guy cycles by with a mask on, I'm pleased, you know? Whenever I see people walking around with those swanky masks I always want to sneeze or cough near them, I just can't help myself, it's a Tourette's thing, I think. Hell, Rupert Grint's got it. I mean, it's proper when actors have got it, right? (laughs)

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