'Triggered': Film Review

Triggered
Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films
Never goes off.
11/6/2020

Nine young people wake up in the woods to discover they've been strapped with suicide bombs in Alastair Orr's violent thriller.

You have to say one thing about the hapless characters in the new horror film directed by Alastair Orr (House on Willow Street, Indigenous): They at least know exactly what kind of movie they're in. Turning homicidally on each other in the woods with bombs attached to their chests, they manage to throw in joking references to the Saw movies and John Wick, among other things. The problem is that these occasionally clever throwaway gags in Triggered mostly remind you of far better viewing experiences.

David D. Jones' script provides the sort of high concept — albeit not a particularly original one — that seems to fuel so many grisly genre exercises these days. Nine old high-school friends (Reine Swart, Russell Crous, Liesl Ahlers, Cameron Scott, Steven Ward, Paige Bonnin, Kayla Privett, Suraya Rose Santos, Michael Lawrence Potter) get together for a reunion on the occasion of a big football game and wind up having to spend the weekend camping in the woods due to a shortage of hotel rooms. While they sleep during their first night, a mysterious assailant gasses them and straps bombs onto their chests. When they wake up, he turns out to be Mr. Peterson (Sean Cameron Michael), their former science teacher.

It turns out that Mr. Peterson has a grudge against the group. His only son used to hang out and party with them during their school days, and died of an overdose in their presence. So he's devised a plan for revenge with bombs featuring countdown timers of varying duration, and "proximity sensors" that transfer the remaining survival time to whoever's closest to the device when the person wearing it dies, thus providing an incentive for the members of the group to kill each other. It makes you wonder why he's a mere high-school teacher when he should be working for the highest levels of the U.S. military. Or at least designing the sort of ultraviolent video games that this movie most closely resembles.

Naturally, this revelation, which is followed immediately by Mr. Peterson's suicide, sets off a Battle Royale-style fight to the death among the friends, who also take the opportunity to work out their personal issues while slaughtering each other in a desperate struggle to stay alive. One character speaks of his bisexuality, saying that he's gay "every now and then." Another takes the opportunity to propose marriage to his girlfriend, who quite reasonably suggests that he wait for a more appropriate time.

The nine young characters are a mostly bland, ill-defined lot whose strong resemblances to each other often make it difficult to tell them apart, especially with the whipsaw handheld camera work and dark lighting. The most memorable one is the resident villain, Kato (Crous), who takes to his newfound killing abilities with gusto. "I'm getting good at this, turning into John Wick!" he exults after dispatching one of his former friends. He also has the movie's best line, insulting a young woman by telling her, "You're a left swipe on Tinder!"

Needless to say, a little of the gory mayhem, sans thematic depth, tonal consistency or accomplished filmmaking technique, goes a long way. Once the outlandish premise is established, there's little to enjoy in the increasing body count, leading you to wish that Mr. Peterson had simply murdered his victims in their sleep. That at least would have made for a blessedly shorter movie.

Available in digital formats and VOD
Production companies: Octane Entertainment, The First Order, Polanomode
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Cast: Reine Swart, Russell Crous, Liesl Ahlers, Cameron Scott, Steven Ward, Paige Bonnin, Kayla Privett, Suraya Rose Santos, Michael Lawrence Potter, Sean Cameron Michael, Craig Urbani
Director/editor: Alastair Orr
Screenwriters: Alastair Orr, David D. Jones
Producers: Ariye Mahdeb, Chwayita Dlulane
Executive producers: Simon Ratcliffe, Richard West, Lester Din, James Matthes, Daniel Caleb, Sean Braam, Ryan van den Berg, Charles Singleton, Alastair Orr, Ariye Mahdeb, David D. Jones
Director of photography: Brendan Barnes
Production designer: Laurnae Roos
Composers: Jason van Wyk, Andries Smit
Costume designer: Brenda Kambule

90 min.