Thursday, October 31, 2019

Satan's Triangle

Satan’s Triangle
Sutton Roley

Coast Guard officer Lt. Haig (Doug McClure) boards a derelict vessel in the middle of the ocean. His helicopter co-pilot, Pagnolini (Michael Conrad) must leave to refuel. Onboard Haig finds a few dead bodies, one thrown through the hull, another hanging from the mast, and the third… well, the third is in a very strange position. He also finds a survivor named Eva (Kim Novak). Eva recounts the events leading up to the deaths of the crew and it all begins with finding a priest lost at sea…

Satan’s Triangle brings together two of the 1970’s favorite fads, The Exorcist (1973) and The Bermuda Triangle. The fit is surprisingly smooth considering these two things are seemingly unrelated. Satan’s Triangle leans heavily on mystery for its first half and it is this section that is the strongest. The film holds on long lingering scenes of Doug McClure moving through the strangely empty boat, the only sounds are the wind and the distant rotors of the Coast Guard helicopter. The two obvious corpses are a tip-off that something bad is afoot, but Satan’s Triangle manages to up the mystery with something even stranger below deck.

We're imps.
The middle section is largely a flashback to the events that lead up to the present mystery and it is where the film starts to drag. None of the boat passengers or crew are particularly interesting. Things pick up once they rescue a priest from the ocean. Since this movie has Satan in the title it is isn’t difficult to discern the true intentions of Father Martin (Alejandro Rey). Haig stretches credulity by coming up with commonplace explanations for all the corpses. He seems neither sufficiently skeptical or desperate enough to completely ignore the strange things happening around him for this to a believable reaction. There is the consideration that he’s only doing it to calm down the lone ship survivor, Eva, so that he can have sex with her, but this is ambiguous.

The weakest element of Satan’s Triangle is in the motivations of its villain. Throughout the film, we are shown that Satan tempts to cajole others into indulging in their sins and then killing them. This sets up the wonderful twist ending, but the path there is muddy. We get a few words about Haig’s lecherousness but then nothing until the end of the second act. We get a mention of his co-pilot’s boring piousness which also becomes a factor near the end, but we are only told about it, we spend so little time with him that we don’t get to see it.

"Oh hi, a totally normal person here... yep, nothing weird going on. Can I get on your boat?"
Despite this flaw when Satan’s Triangle hits its climax, the story pulls several welcome surprises on the audience culminating in a chilling finale that still holds up over forty years later. I was under the impression that television movies especially skewed towards softer endings so as not upset the potentially broad audience that was watching them, but Satan’s Triangle proves this is not always the case. Satan’s Triangle is a minor gem for horror fans and I would recommend it for some late-night TV viewing.

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