Twice this week I’ve been shocked and surprised by films about which I can reveal very little. First up? Christopher Smith’s Triangle, a direct-to-DVD horror film out of Britain that’s so much better than it should be.

Melissa George plays a single mother who joins her friends on a weekend yachting expedition. The boat capsizes in a sudden storm, and all seems to point toward certain death, until a cruise ship appears out of the fog. The survivors climb on board, only to discover that the ship is deserted, despite evidence that it shouldn’t be. George sees–or thinks she sees–someone running down the stairs, setting the stage for a Groundhog Day-style thriller, as George relives the same events over and over, trying each time to change the outcome so that she can flee the derelict cruise ship and get home to her son.

I hate to be so ambiguous here, but I must, unless you want me to spoil the film’s surprises. Smith builds a lot of genuine suspense in his scenes, as George tries desperately to unravel the mystery of her deja vu, and he even evokes a bit of Hitchcock in his heroine, who may or may not be guilty of a series of brutal murders. The ending, when it comes, could have had all the weight of a deflating balloon; but Smith is too skilled a filmmaker to let that happens, and knows that his build-up will support it.

This is an uncommonly good suspense film. Usually I expect very little of direct-to-DVD releases, with most of them operating on slim budgets and little talent, but Triangle did what few of them do: it left me thinking about it long after I’d hit the stop button.

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