Set in Florida — but shot in Brisbane and Oz’s Gold Coast, with a largely Australian cast pretending to be Yanks — the story starts in mystifying fashion with stressed-out single mom Jess (Melissa George) and her autistic young son, Tommy (Joshua McIvor), in their suburban home. Jess appears to lose her son and turns up alone at a dock where b.f. Greg (Michael Dorman) has invited her and some friends for a spin on his yacht.
Also on board are married couple Downey and Sally (Henry Nixon, Rachael Carpani), sailor Victor (Liam Hemsworth) and Sally’s friend, Heather (Emma Lung), whom Sally wants to pair off with Greg, as she doesn’t like Jess. Jess herself seems more strung out than a clothes line, and as soon as they set sail, she starts dreaming she’s woken up alone on a beach.
Smith doesn’t waste much time on character development, as that’s hardly the movie’s point. The pic is soon rife with symbols: from the yacht’s name, Triangle, to the sudden, very Bermuda Triangle-y development when the boat is trashed by a flash electrical storm. As the six sit on the overturned hull, a seemingly deserted ship called the SS Aeolus appears, and they hop on.
Ancient Greek scholars will already be several steps ahead of the protags by this point — Aeolus was the father of Sisyphus (nudge, nudge) — though Smith’s script does fill in some of his symbols for nonclassicists. As soon as Jess says she’s starting to get deja vu, she comes face to face with a masked figure carrying a shotgun. And then the slaughter starts.
Early reels are genuinely intriguing, as Smith lays out his table, and the cool widescreen lensing by Aussie d.p. Robert Humphreys (“Somersault”) stokes up the atmosphere as the actors wander the boat’s interiors. (“The Shining,” referenced in a room number, never seems far off.) However, once the basic idea is revealed around the hour mark, Smith keeps the viewer waiting for a logical explanation that never comes: The film only makes some kind of sense on its own fantastic level.
George, eye-catching in denim shorts and white tank-top, dominates the movie in a tour de force of contrasting emotions. The rest of the cast is largely shotgun fodder, with only Carpani etching something of a character.
Aussie locations just look superficially like Florida, and Smith appears to deliberately underline the joke with a reference to the “Sunshine State” (a local nickname for Queensland).