Triggered movie review

Triggered has an appropriately timed title for a horror movie, but that’s the end of its cleverness. It’s another film clearly following the Saw franchise playbook…just without any of the wit, style and uneasiness of its inspiration.

Nine friends from high school reconnect on a camping trip only to wake up wearing suicide bomb vests with timers. When the time run out, they blow up. The only way to increase their time is by killing each other until only one remains.

There’s definitely a Saw vibe with this premise especially as random secrets start popping up among the characters. Everyone immediately turns to their old valedictorian Rian (Reine Swart) to come up with a plan of escape. Sometimes the smart person in high school isn’t necessarily the life genius needed to escape a death trap.

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The culprit behind the crime apologizes for making seemingly innocent Erin (Liesl Ahlers) go through this ordeal. What’s odder is that instead of tying her up so she doesn’t have to take part in this horrific exercise, Erin still has to contend with all the craziness around her. At least with Erin there’s one likable character to root for through this ordeal.

Screenwriter David D. Jones ignores a basic tenant of horror movies with a large ensemble — the initial setup scene to properly introduce the characters. That’s typically done by a quick montage segment or the tedious, but necessary picking up the various characters. Narratively, it can be a chore, but when there’s no great distinction between the characters it’s essential.

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Distinguishing characters also isn’t easy due to the nighttime setting with only the glow from the vest providing much lighting. It does effectively set the ambiance in a nightmarish laser tag style visual even if it’s not helpful telling the characters apart.

This is also a great time to mention the complete lack of minority characters on any front. Triggered’s “diversity” extends to a blonde and a character with a beard. One character is bisexual although that came off more as a means to work in some homophobic jokes instead of a major plot point.

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The film’s biggest problem is how quickly two characters turn into murdering psychopaths trying to kill off their supposed friends.  Kato (Russell Crous, Escape Room) is the worst offender as his shift from mildly obnoxious jerk to hammy horror movie villain is ridiculous. It’s not clear if Crous’ overacting is to blame or if the dialogue is just so bad, but either way it’s overkill.

Director Alastair Orr also breaks a long established horror rule with quick zooms in and out instead of just keeping a wide shot until absolutely necessary. Orr zooms in and out just in basic shots like the group sitting around the campfire. It becomes a distracting filming style that adds little to the tense thriller mood he’s establishing. 

Orr fares better once the carnage gets underway and he can just utilize a more traditional style in staging the impressively gory death scenes.

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The puzzling manner in which the culprit is written out makes the rest of the film play out weird. After all, Jigsaw wouldn’t get much satisfaction watching his victims go through their morality crisis if he wasn’t there to watch it. And if Triggered isn’t enough fun for the designer of the carnage to sit through there’s little reason for the audience to endure it either.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Photo Credit: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Triggered will be available On Demand on Nov. 6.

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