Do you remember Battle Royale, the Japanese film about a class of school kids forced to kill each other to survive? Well, Alastair Orr (House on Willow Street, Indigenous) certainly does. Triggered, the new film from Orr and writer David D. Jones (The Passenger, Between the Trees) takes the concept and shifts it to the US. The Hunger Games made its take on the idea work by going epic with it. Can this work by fusing it with Saw?
A group of high school friends, now college-age, get together to go camping and boozing in the woods. Of course, it doesn’t take long before past grudges and crushes surface. Along with a mention of an incident involving someone named Caleb.
After being gassed they wake to find suicide bomber vests with timers strapped to their chests. Mr. Peterson (Sean Cameron Michael, Fried Barry, The Mummy), a former teacher and coincidentally Caleb’s father tells them what’s going on and why before he blows his brains out. When the timers count down to zero the vest explodes. But, you can buy yourself more time by killing someone and taking what’s left on their counter. The last one standing gets to live.
May the odds be ever in your favour.
I almost passed Triggered up. The director’s statement was full of politically charged terms and errors like “route for the good guys”. It read like a Facebook rant rather than a professional press release. Which certainly made me wonder if the film was just as sloppy. But Reine Swart had impressed me enough in The Lullaby and The Refuge that I decided to give it a look.
Filmed in South Africa but set in the US despite some obvious accents, Triggered gives us a fairly generic cast of characters. Erin (Liesl Ahlers, Friend Request) the girl in the wrong place at the wrong time, Rian (Reine Swart) the brainy daughter of a cop, Kato (Russell Crous) who is on the other side of the law, etc.
Despite the director’s comments about “sensitive, woke, SJW millennials’ most of Triggered’s characters are actually insensitive, unlikable, assholes. So a large part of whether or not you’ll enjoy the film comes down to how much you like seeing people you can’t stand bicker, backstab each other both figuratively and literally. And meet an assortment of violent ends. That can be fun, but I prefer to watch characters I like fighting to survive, and there are very few of them here. Especially as the film goes on and secrets are revealed, bringing people’s true natures into the open.
If you can get past that Triggered does have plenty of action as the former friends fight the clock and each other. Predictably one of them goes full-blown psycho, trying to kill everyone else even after a potential workaround is discovered. It’s equally predictable which one it is. Apart from that though Triggered does have some decent plotting and some surprising plot twists. There are a couple that stretches believability. But for the most part, they make sense, including the final reveal.
There’s also lots of gore on display. Perhaps not surprisingly, more of the cast die by each other’s hands than blow up. Triggered serves up plenty of shootings, stabbings, hackings and beatings as well as people blowing up real good. All done with some very moist practical effects.
I liked Triggered a good deal more than I thought I would. For the most part, its fast pace and bloody surprises distracted me from the film’s problems. Those that enjoy its style of plotting should love it.
Samuel Goldwyn Films will release Triggered On Digital and On Demand on November 6, 2020.