Triggered (2020), Reine Swart, Liesl Ahlers, (Horror Movie Review)

Last Updated on December 21, 2021

PLOT: A group of old friends reconnects on a group camping trip. When a suspicious stranger shows up and gases them, they awake strapped with suicide vests and must play a cruel game of survival if they hope to stay alive.

LOWDOWN: Director Alastair Orr’s TRIGGERED (WATCH IT HERE) sets itself around a group of frayed friendships stemming from an overdose of one of their own and try and reconnect over a few beers around the campfire. It becomes clear right off the bat that no one likes each other. Between some snide comments, a few humorous jabs, and some spot-on sh*t talking, I’m confused as to why anyone agreed to come. This sets up the expectation that our group of friends won’t consist of any likable characters but be cannon fodder for the script. We get a brief introduction to the twenty-somethings and their personal drama. The evolving backstory of their dead friend who suspiciously overdosed at party years back doesn’t matter because it’s quickly established that most of these Millennials suck as human beings, and you won’t want to root for anyone. The rules are simple; only one person can survive, and they can add time to their clock-bomb vest by killing each other. Once sh*t hits the fan, loyalties become broken, alliances change, and everyone tries to stay alive by any means necessary.

When TRIGGERED tones down the noise and focused on the stalking and murder, It succeeds in being its best self. The look and style of being hunted in the dark woods only to be illuminated by your glowing vest gave for some fun moments. Alastair Orr has a sense of style, and the look of TRIGGERED could have been a dark mess, but he gives everything the right mamount of energy to keep things moving. Like a video game, these characters level up and gain better weapons in hopes of murdering quicker and absorbing more time. The gore in this was a pleasant surprise that helped elevate even the most absurd situations. I’m talking blood-splatter and flying bodyparts type of a good time. TRIGGERED goes for the SAW style gore and, in the third act, goes for broke like Romero in the ’80s. The more comical things got, the better the movie was. F*ck it. Just go full “Nicolas Cage” and lean into the madness! Sadly, these characters talk so f*cking much; I’d classify TRIGGERED as part soap opera.

When it focuses on the killing, TRIGGERED works; still, there’s a weird duality between the seriousness of the situation and the witty pop-culture laced dialogue that feels like lifted from a very different movie. I’m all for mixed tones, but this can’t pick a side to embrace and doesn’t balance the humor with the tension. Not only is it not funny, but the characters are also written as (mostly) terrible people. Twenty minutes in, I couldn’t find a charter to route for. And since we learn more about their dirty deeds as the film progresses, I felt guarded about giving anyone a chance. Everyone is paying for something, and this information is slow-dripped throughout the runtime. There’s also the issue of reasonable character decisions that is frustratingly inconsistent. Early on, we learn that you must kill your friends to gain their time, yet everyone tries to reason with a crazed ax-wielding character or the suspicious guy brandishing a gun. It’s this forced trust that keeps the movie happening, and these types of situations happen for the entire runtime.

Characters frequently give their weapon to another or try and reason with someone after being attacked. Rian gives up her gun after being warned to keep it moments before while no one aims for the head when they use it. WHY GIVE UP A GUN in a back-woods Battle Royale? It becomes almost drinking-game worthy with the number of times it happens. Give up a weapon, then take a drink! This may work if it was going for a similar tone to SCARE PACKAGE or EVIL DEAD 2, but TRIGGERED is a serious horror flick that’s overstuffed with strange comedy. Since I wasn’t laughing, I ended up rooting for the bombs. You either make this meta to the point it’s bordering on parody or go razor straight, but when I can’t tell, then you may have miscalculated.

GORE: The gore is excellent. Explosions, missing limbs, and some bloody stabbings, TRIGGERED goes all out with the blood and guts.

BOTTOM LINE: Alastair Orr’s TRIGGERED is an odd beast of a film. A mix between the paranoid survival of BATTLE ROYALE with the intensity of SAW and SCREAM’s meta-humor, this aims for a lot but doesn’t hit its mark. The characters were as thin as my bank account on payday, and the humor didn’t blend well with the intense survival tone. Even a mixed bag can offer up a few good shots, and at this point, I’ll take the small wins when I can, but with dumb character decisions and some cringe-worthy dialogue, I felt like every time TRIGGERED was working, they’d slow it down for a JUNO-esq monologue and kill the vibe. Though this ain’t for me, I can see TRIGGERED getting a cult fan base and eventually trend at the midnight showings. If it sounds like a good time to you, give it some support, but it just didn’t work for me.

Samuel Goldwyn Films will release TRIGGERED On Demand and Digital on November 6th, 2020.

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