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DEAD TRIGGER (2017)

Having already made Battle Of The Damned you would think Dolph Lundgren would know to avoid zombie films of questionable quality. But here he is, complete with black hair left over from The Punisher, in Dead Trigger. An adaptation of the video game of the same name.

In the five years since it was first detected, a virus has brought about the zombie apocalypse. The Contagion Special Unit (CSU) has been formed as an elite force to deal with the threat. However, due to its high mortality rate, it has taken to using a video game called, you guessed it, Dead Trigger to find recruits. Walker (Dolph Lundgren, Hard Night Falling, Black Water) and Rockstock (Isaiah Washington, Grey’s Anatomy, Ghost Ship) are in charge of training the newest batch of zombie chow. Of course, their training is cut short when there’s an emergency extraction needed, and they’re the closest unit.

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Co-written and co-directed by Mike Cuff (The Spitfire Pilot, He-Play) and Scott Windhauser (Hurricane Heist) who went on to co-write the equally wretched Antidote, Dead Trigger is a mess. I never played the original game, so I have no idea if this is an accurate adaptation. But we also never see the game in the movie either, which seems odd. Also for a film with an alleged $10,000,000 budget, it has incredibly bad effects. The CGI gunshots and blood spray are bad enough. But when Lt. Martinov (Oleg Taktarov, Predators, Battle Drone) is demonstrating zombie fighting we get CGI stab wounds. And they are awful.

Now, this might have been forgivable if the rest of Dead Trigger had delivered. But it doesn’t. The plot is as by numbers as possible, right down to the base’s commander having a daughter among those needing to be rescued. Equally predictable is the unit having a traitor in their midst, and who it turns out to be. There are other noticeable gaffes, such as a character talking into what’s supposed to be a cell phone but is obviously just the case for one.

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The zombies are basic, slow-moving creatures. I had hoped when they encountered the immensely powerful Subject Zero (Keil Oakley Zepernick, Fear Street: Part One – 1994, Code Name Banshee) early in the mission that the film would go into Resident Evil territory. But he turns out to be a one-of-a-kind creature, and we’re back to basic zombies. And the battles with them are shot with an incredible lack of flair. One only has to look at Redcon-1 to see how easily this should be done. And for a lot less money than Dead Trigger claims to have spent.

Of course, that alleged budget is at odds not just with the sloppy and obviously cut-price production, but reports that the production fled Mexico three days before the end of scheduled filming abandoning equipment, props, etc, after unpaid local workers claimed to have called in a cartel to act as debt collectors. The producers in turn characterized it as attempted extortion and filed insurance claims.

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That’s on top of Dead Trigger’s original writer and director Mike Cuff, who had secured the rights to the game to begin with, being replaced two days into the shoot, forcing delays and rewrites. He also claims to be owed money by the film’s producers. How much these production difficulties contributed to the poor final product is hard to say, but they surely didn’t help.

Shot in 2017 but only now seeing US release via Saban Films it’s quickly obvious why this sat on the shelf for so long. Even the Starship Trooper-type recruiting ads can’t help Dead Trigger, it’s dead on arrival.

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