November 5, 2020 Triggered (Movie Review)
It is the Saw franchise meets 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer in the new Horror-Thriller offering Triggered, which arrives to Digital and On Demand on Friday, November 6, 2020, thanks to Samuel Goldwyn Films.
Apropos of its title, Triggered is not for the easily ‘triggered’ as, much like Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy, it revels in its decidedly non-PC humor. Couple this with tons of blood and raining body parts, and you have this twisted romp from Director Alastair Orr (Indigenous 2014, House on Willow Street 2016) and Writer David D. Jones (The Passenger mini-series). Out of South Africa, the story focuses on nine former high school friends who are celebrating their reunion at a remote camp in the woods. What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, none of the friends is without their own deeply-veiled secrets. While it is fairly easy to read some of the group, like former valedictorian Rian (Reine Swart: Detour 2016, The Lullaby 2017), wannabe rockstar PJ (Cameron Scott: The Dream Dealer short 2018, The Colosseum short 2018), and one-time drug dealer Kato (Russell Crous: Escape Room 2019, The Widow series), others aren’t quite as simple. Like Erin (Liesl Ahlers: Friend Request 2016, Daylight short 2018), who is clearly the outsider, or the always arguing couple Ezra (Steven John Ward: Queen Sono series, Vagrant Queen series) and Cici (Kayla Privett: Sniper: Reloaded video 2011). And let us not forget Cici’s best friend Amber (Paige Bonnin: Das Kindermädchen – Mission Südafrika TV movie 2018, The Girl from St. Agnes series), or Bobby (Michael Lawrence Potter) and Shea (Suraya Rose Santos: Fried Barry 2020, Professionals series), who enjoy some loud tent sex for all to hear.
But none of their quirks matter when they wake up in the middle of their camp, strapped into suicide vests—all with varying times on their countdown clocks. Barely coherent from the sleeping gas used to knock them out, the ennead listens as someone from their past (Sean Cameron Michael: Black Sails series, The Mummy 2017) explains that only one of them will survive the night. Defying this, they initially opt to work together to disarm the bombs or find help—that is until they discover they can ‘take’ one another’s time by killing each other.
Using 2000’s Battle Royale and its ilk as a jumping point, Triggered combines elements of the aforementioned Saw films and Teen Horror classics like I Know What You Did Last Summer to explore terrain that might be familiar to fans of more recent films such as 2018’s Headgame, 2020’s The Hunt, or even The Hunger Games franchise. In short, there’s a lot of crimson spraying around these woods as the millennial characters fight to overcome their generational ‘shortcomings’—recklessness, entitlement, desensitization, etc.—as well as outwitting, outlasting and outplaying one another and those deadly countdown clocks.
This all results in a film that is Horror with heavy action, plenty of thrills, a dash of romance, and enough crass humor to intentionally offend. But don’t say you weren’t warned! In fact, self-aware antagonist Director Orr even notes that “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!”
Triggered succeeds in its aim much in thanks to its cast, who take this premise and give it their all. Despite each character being little more than a fairly basic trope, the actors commit to their roles and shape them into, if not entirely believable, at least amusing archetypes. As far as friends go, they show us what we’ll lovingly term ‘the best of the worst of friends,’ a group who are quick to turn on each other when the dookie hits the figurative fan.
Each plays an important role in bringing this twisted tale to life, though perhaps the three most likable individuals are Swart’s brainy Rian, Scott’s mimbo with a heart of gold PJ, and Ahlers’ Erin. Scott is able to deliver some great comedic lines in his role, while Swart’s Rian feels the most rounded of the characters. Conversely, though Ahlers’ Erin is fairly flat, she still manages to be a sympathetic character; a soft-spoken woman who exists on the fringes of the friend circle. The others—Crous’ self-centered Kato, Ward’s unfaithful Ezra, and the nearly interchangeable Cici (Privett), Amber (Bonnin), and Shea (Santos)—are wholly unlikable, and that stands as a testament to the talents of each of the actors.
All of this said, keep in mind that Triggered is not really a film with multiple layers of commentary embedded in its plot or a focus on fantastical aesthetics. Instead, there is some fun poked at ‘woke’ millennials, as well as aggressively convoluted boomers, but that is hardly the main crux of this story—which is, simply, to have a savagely satisfying time at the theater or on your sofa. Whether you’re cheering for the good guys and gals, or patiently awaiting the deaths of the loathed ones, Triggered is intended to inject some personality into your moviegoing experience and remind you why you fell in love with Horror.
At 94 minutes, it is a succinct sucker punch and it is done amazingly well for what it is, showing both Orr and Jones’ love for film, particularly the Horror genre. The nods are many, the jokes are deliciously uncouth, Jason Bateman gets a mention, and Valtrex could be a sponsor. How can you not love it? For all of these reasons, and in hopes of not being blown to smithereens, Cryptic Rock gives Triggered 4.5 of 5 stars.