Starring: Sean Cameron Michael, Liesl Ahlers, Reine Swart
Written by: David D. Jones
Directed By: Alastair Orr
Triggered is a minimalist horror film based on the idea that a half dozen or so college kids are forced into a battle royale. The logistics of such a scenario are ideal for low-budget filmmaking; to paraphrase low-budget filmmaking guru Dov S-S Simens: if you don’t have a lot of money, you’re either going to be making Return of the Secaucus 7 (i.e. old friends have a reunion) or a movie about a cabin full of kids getting hacked up. Well, Triggered dispenses with the cabin and gets right to the hacking ‒ no location required, just some woods.
It is in these woods, around a campfire, that a group of semi-friends begin their bickering. Before long, they become pawns in a deadly game, wherein they are confined by some loose-looking vests that are rigged with detonators and timers, and they are told that only one of them will survive. Thus, the bickering gives way to the group members yelling exasperatedly at each other before heading off in different directions and gradually killing one another in an effort to harvest the remaining time on the detonators ‒ for each player killed, the killer inherits the remaining time from their victim’s explosive timer.
The press kit contained a statement from Alastair Orr, the film’s director. It reads, in part, “I wanted to make a fun as hell midnight movie that riffs on the Battle Royale genre, and the types of kill game films that came before ‒ SAW meets American Pie. I thought it would be hilarious to see [shallow characters, who] are more concerned about their own superficial feelings than the game that their tormentor wants to play.”
While the movie certainly achieves the director’s concept, I must concede that I didn’t like American Pie. There’s just something about exposition-heavy dialogue and unimaginative, sophomoric humor that makes my eyes roll. Naturally, most people who enjoy genre films are not as hifalutin as I am about storytelling or dialogue, and for them, the film includes such verbal gems as: “You don’t want to kill me; that’s the herpes talking” and “Fight back; it’s weird killing you when you’re surrendering.”
In his statement, Orr also said, “The film doesn’t take itself seriously and the audience shouldn’t either. It’s quick, it flirts with bad taste, and should be swallowed in one quick shot… like tequila at a frat party!”
This is a fair enough assessment because all of my criticisms about the writing aside, the film is pretty fun. The acting is good all around; the kills are all juicy; and Orr actually gets some really nice atmosphere going throughout ‒ especially with the aid of the different colored lights on the explosive vests, which shine either blue, green, or red (creating decent mood lighting) depending upon the amount of time the wearer has left. Solid, handheld, camera work by cinematographer Brendan Barnes and plenty of dramatic music stings and bass booms also assist in giving the film plenty of production value.
There is also a who dunnit aspect to the story, as the orchestrator of the game is out to avenge the murder of his boy at the hands of one of our superficial characters. But principally, the charm that horror fans will find in this film is in its fast-pacing and brutal stabbings, bashings, and explodings. There’s also a major nod to The Shining, as one of the characters takes no more than 20 minutes to go full Jack Torrance, complete with raving, axe, and limp. This is kind of amusing, but if you’re going to have a character go full Jack Torrance, there is an unwritten rule that says one of the targets needs to be named Danny.
The film is set for a Nov. 6 release on digital and On Demand platforms; however, I believe the optimal way to experience Triggered would be at a festival, a midnight screening (as the director indicated), or as the centerpiece of a drinking game. Beyond that, it is still a good bit of fun with fast-pacing and a catchy gimmick.
Director Alastair Orr accomplished his objective of putting shallow characters into a high-concept killing game. Unfortunately, this means that viewers will be watching weakly drawn characters exchange stodgy dialogue for an hour and a half, but at least they get colorfully offed at a goodly pace, and the film has nice polish to it.