The Shasta Triangle, the atmospheric female-driven sci-fi/horror film written and directed by Barry W. Levy, was released on all major streaming platforms on December 3, 2019. Helenna Santos, who also produces and stars in the film, co-wrote the story the film is based on. The cerebral film is set in Mt. Shasta, California, and the area’s history of unexplained sound phenomena, which many locals believe lead to disappearances or worse in the backcountry, sets the stage.
At the center of the ensemble cast is Dani Lennon’s Paula, who returns home to find out why her parents disappeared in the forests of Mt. Shasta and what the sound phenomena have to do with it. Ayanna Berkshire plays level-headed Sam, the local sheriff and Paula’s closest friend. Paula and Sam meet at a trailhead to begin their investigation into the disappearance. Deborah Lee Smith (Charlie), Madeline Merritt (Meredith) and Helenna Santos (Alicia), Paula and Sam’s former high school friends, show up uninvited and unannounced. Charlie and Meredith stayed in Mt. Shasta and are angry that Paula cut all contact when she left town yet ultimately glad to see her again. Alicia is now a reporter with a blog that attempts to explain the unexplainable. She arrives, camera in hand, ready to exploit the investigation for site hits and ad clicks.
The Shasta Triangle’s sci-fi/horror premise draws from many esoteric disciplines that make sense within the film’s context. Horror is sometimes described as capable people in a circumstance where their skills render them incapable. And a pleasant summer day on a mountain hiking trail would not render you helpless. Would it? The film uses a discussion of Alicia’s blog and Paula’s childhood to move the plot forward by explaining what the viewer needs to know. The stakes get higher and higher
This critic was delighted to watch a female-led sci fi-horror film, one that was written and produced by a woman of color. Science fiction has a distinct lack of female and minority representation in most of its films. There are many women and minority characters in the genre, for example, Maria in 1927’s Metropolis, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura of Star Trek, and Doctor Who’s Sarah Jane Smith. And yes, Ripley and Sarah Connor are badasses. No question. What the genre lacks are films like The Shasta Triangle, where the characters decide to solve a problem and deal with the repercussions. Their actions and responses that drive the story aren’t prompted by an external situation, such as being ignored by their subordinates (Did anyone listen to Ripley when she said, “Maybe don’t bring the alien lifeforms aboard, guys?” Spoiler: No.) or in reaction to being hunted down by a cyborg because a waitress will give birth to the male savior of the planet (Terminator (1984), anyone?).
As such, I willingly overlooked the slow first act. There were some plot points that I wished were explored. There’s little reliance on special effects and those that are used are sparse. But it doesn’t need a lot of special effects. Not when the forest goes from idyllic to disturbing because of stellar cinematography and how effortlessly the cast plays off of each other to increase the tension. The Shasta Triangle is a respectable film, one a viewer can watch on any major streaming service. I look forward to more films written and produced by Santos.