“The Triangle” is a found footage horror film written and directed by David Blair, Nathaniel Peterson, Adam Pitman, Andrew Rizzo, and Adam Stilwell. The ensemble crew wears multiple hats, serving in various roles as actors, editors, and cinematographers. The film follows a documentary crew who investigate the inner workings of a commune set in the New Mexico desert.
The five writer/directors worked together on a handful of small productions, with David Blair, Nathaniel Peterson, Adam Pitman, and Andrew Stilwell being regular collaborators. In 2016, the quartet released the bigfoot horror film The Sighting. The Triangle is first found footage outing for everyone involved.
The Triangle opens with filmmakers David Blair, Adam Cotton, Adam Pitman, and Adam Stilwell (all ostensibly playing themselves) receiving a postcard out of the blue from their estranged friend Nathaniel Peterson (Peterson). We learn that Peterson cut off all contact with his friends and modern civilization when he went to live in a commune in the New Mexico desert. Peterson invites his filmmaker friends to film life on the commune. The invitation, however, is coupled with a vague plea for help. Wanting both to see their friend and produce their first documentary, they film crew accepts the invitation.
…it becomes clear that The Triangle holds a dark secret
Upon arrival in the remote desert commune called The Triangle, they are greeted by Peterson and the group’s leader Andrew Rizzo, who is welcoming, but uncertain about the newcomers’ presence. The filmmakers find that although the commune members seem strange and sometimes guarded, they are largely harmless, leading simple lives in harmony with each other and the environment. As time goes on, though, crack begins to appear and it becomes clear that The Triangle holds a dark secret.
Found Footage Cinematography
For the most part, the cinematography in The Triangle is consistent with a team of experienced filmmakers creating a documentary under the conditions set forth in the film. The camerawork is appropriately composed and choreographed considering that a team of professional filmmakers with professional grade equipment is filming.
The Triangle makes the odd stylistic choice of occasionally using a split screen. In these particular scenes, video cameras capture footage of the same subject, but from different vantage points, displaying them at the same time using a split screen. In one such case, three video cameras capture and display the same scene from different angles. At points, this stylistic choice creates an effective contrast or conveys a realistic feeling of chaos. At other times, however, some viewers may find the split screens to be cluttered, confusing, and possibly aesthetically unappealing. The Triangle makes it clear why this gimmick, although occasionally effective, tends not to be used in other found footage films.
While the cinematography is very good, at times the number of video cameras and who is behind each one is sometimes poorly established and confusing. The few scenes where it is unclear as to who is behind the camera may come across as alienating and distracting for some viewers.
For the bulk of The Triangle, two video cameras are used. Near the end, however, a third video camera shows up, seemingly out of nowhere. In the last few minutes, the filmmakers utilize a cache of half-a-dozen or so video cameras to capture surveillance footage. Perhaps, the surveillance cameras were not deployed earlier out of respect for the privacy of the closed community, who were already skittish about the few manned video cameras following their every move, but this is not made explicitly clear.
The reason for filming is clearly established in the first few minutes of The Triangle: the characters are a group of filmmakers who were invited by an estranged friend to make a documentary about the commune where he has been living. This justification is preserved throughout the film, maintaining its integrity throughout. There is no point in the film where the reason or circumstance under which the characters are filming is brought into question. In the one scene where a character would probably have put down his camera, he does—with the result being an extremely effective shot.
During one particularly stressful point during the film, the cinematographer has to be shouted at several times to put down the camera. Later on, another of the filmmakers defends him, explaining that he’s been holding the camera “24/7” and that filming is “instinct,” by this point. This is a good example of the trope of linking the filming to the cinematographer’s emotions, one of the better justifications for filming in found footage.
Found Footage Purity
The Triangle is presented as an edited documentary, complete with opening credits and incidental music. This approach never feels out of place, maintaining its conceit throughout as both an investigation of the commune and documentary of the odd lifestyle the group chose to adopt.
The cult itself comes across as much more realistic than most cults portrayed in film. The description of how The Triangle developed is believable, and the members evince a cohesive and believable ideology. Anyone who has attended a liberal arts college will be well-versed in the new- bafflegab on display. The setting, both physically and in terms of dialogue and character, feels real.
There are a few points where important scenes are left offscreen and only referred to after the fact. It is painfully obvious that the reason for this is that the filmmakers didn’t have the effects budget to create these scenes. The special effects team’s most high-profile credit prior to The Triangle was Mutt & Stuff (2015), a Nickelodeon series featuring Cesar Milan and puppets. While this omission is understandable, after the second time, the audience’s suspension of disbelief may be challenged.
The acting in The Triangle is consistently good, with convincingly naturalistic performances. At least in some parts (possibly throughout), the dialogue appears to be improvised. The characters are likable and their relationships feel real. Adam Pitman stands out as the somewhat shy and uncertain audience surrogate in this strange setting.
Each actor is credited as “him/herself,” as though they are playing fictionalized versions of themselves, rather than wholly original characters. (As an amusing aside, the one “actor” not following this pattern is Muttsley who plays simply “Dog” rather than “Himself”). This approach works well with the four main characters who are playing fictionalized versions of themselves, namely a group of young indie filmmakers—to the point that Adam Cotton, the actor playing the sound technician, actually was responsible for sound on the film. However inconsequential, this conceit rings disingenuous with the actors playing members of the commune, who are definitively actors and filmmakers, not desert-dwelling hippies.
All cult-based horror films face the same inherent difficulty. The most horrifying aspect of real cults is how regular people are slowly drawn into extreme circumstances and gradual psychological manipulation, with frequently disastrous results. In movies, due to the stereotype of the cult-based movie plot, the mere mention of a cult is likely to place viewers on immediate alert for something bad to happen. The audience waits for a violent climax, with a sense of grim, even tedious inevitability. This can be seen in found footage films such as The Sacrament (2013), Apocalyptic (2014), and Children of Sorrow (2012). The Triangle is unique in subverting this pattern, veering into unexpected and intriguing directions—The Triangle is among the best found footage cult horror film on the market.
The Triangle is among the best found footage cult horror film on the market
The Triangle has an open ending, lacking any real resolution or explanation of the central mystery. Whether this is a drawback or works in the film’s favor will largely depend on each viewer’s sensibilities for open endings. Some may find the restraint tantalizing and evocative; others may feel underwhelmed and unsatisfied. On the other hand, the way the open ending unfolds goes strongly against the documentary setup. No real documentary would end the way The Triangle does, without any denouement offering reflection or speculation on the previous events. This approach also denies viewers the reactions of the documentary crew, with which the audience are likely to have the greatest emotional connection to. A short scene of their reaction, showing how the events of the film have changed their lives would have been welcome, on a basic structural level. All told, The Triangle is a found footage film that is well worth watching.