When nine friends decide to camp out in a remote part of the forest, what they believe is a night of saving a few bucks soon turns into a vicious game of life and death...
...Alastair Orr’s Triggered, hinged on the old trope of “somebody did me wrong”, is a decently fun film with some rather enjoyable acting. While I did feel like it suffered from a bit of an identity crisis—Comedy? Satire? Serious?--Triggered manages to keep itself afloat with some terrifically fun writing and characters like Cameron Scott’s PJ, Reine Swart’s Rian, and Russell Crous’ fantastic, over the top, Kato—a personal favorite, second only to PJ.
Prompted to camp out in the woods by their friend Bobby (Michael Lawrence Potter) rather than stay in town for an upcoming event, the group sets up camp and pulls out the beer. After a brief and awkward discussion of herpes, one forced sex scene, and some overall angst between the friends, the group becomes victim to a gassing incident. Upon waking, they find themselves clothed in vests strapped with explosives, complete with a sarcastic smart app timer that rips out timely insults like “nerd,” “dumbass,” and “high score.” It seems that these once high schoolers have pissed off their old science teacher, Peterson (Sean Cameron Michael), who believes they had something to do with his son’s overdose and subsequent death. As a result, he straps them with explosives, cries out that all but one is fish bait, and then takes his own life in a rather disturbing scene.
Once the vests are on and Peterson is dead, Triggered starts to shine. Each vest’s smart app timer counts down to an assumed detonation. To drill the point home, Orr makes sure we see first-hand what happens when those continuously declining numbers finally reach zero and bless our friends with a nice little Bobby shower. The John Carpenter Thing-but-not-quite paranoia kicks in after PJ accidentally kills another one of the crew and his countdown increases, gaining those precious minutes of the recently departed. Peterson’s message is clear: Kill if you want to stay alive. What follows is pure mayhem, a cringe-worthy hand scene, and a bunch of stabbing as friendship and trust get challenged when some choose to embrace the madness in a desperate attempt to cling to a few more minutes of life.
All the acting is on point. You’re disgusted by Ezra (Steven John Ward) and secretly (or maybe not so secretly, you sick freak) find yourself rooting for Kato. As I mentioned, Cameron Scott’s PJ stood out for me. PJ is a genuinely likable character, and I got the sense Scott himself is much the same. A close second is Kato, who Crous obviously had a lot of fun playing, and Rian is charming as the MIT student and PJ’s girlfriend, whose nerdiness might be able to save them. PJ and Kato, though, two characters at complete opposite ends of the spectrum like oil and water, are absolute joys to watch on screen.
There is a surprising lack of gore for a film based on killing or being killed. That is not to say there is not any; in fact, what does come into play was enough to make me squeamish (that hand scene!). It just means I thought there would be more, well, boom! Perhaps I was too focused on what was playing out to notice all that took place. On that note, I will say that Swart’s portrayal of Rian is spectacular. I forgot she was acting, and I took a liking to her accepting and graceful personality.
While bombs strapped to unsuspecting victims is far from original, David D Jones and Alistair Orr’s explosive writing keeps Triggered from going off the rails and falling into the been-there-done-that territory. You hate, love, and suspect the right people, and just when you think you have it all figured out, Jones and Orr go ahead and subvert your assumptions. Each character is fleshed out with unique and individual personalities, a rare gem in films like this. Characters make or break a movie, and when written well, as they are with Triggered, they get me to invest early and buy into a story’s plausibility. I mentioned the three that stood out to me, but all are believable in their roles and have some wickedly fun screen time.
Since I began writing for Killer Horror Critic, I learned that I never know what I will get with the films I choose to review. Some have been so disappointingly bad that they are not even funny (looking at you Devil’s Revenge). In contrast, others have left me pleasantly surprised or downright thrilled (Chase Williamson in Greenlight, anyone?). Triggered left me with a sense of being entertained and satisfied with the time I set aside to watch it. If you are looking for a fun film that does not require a lot of thinking, then give this one a watch.
Triggered comes to VOD and Digital from Samuel Goldwyn Films November 6th.
By Daniel Boucher