Directed by Alastair Orr.
Starring Reine Swart, Sean Cameron Michael, Liesl Ahlers, and Craig Urbani.
Nine friends go camping in the woods. After a wild night of partying, they wake up with suicide bombs strapped to their chests, all with varying times on their countdown clocks. They decide to work out how to disarm the bombs or find help – until they discover they can “take” one another’s time by killing each other.
Perhaps the most immediately attention-grabbing offering at this year’s Frightfest, Triggered offers an update on the Battle Royale formula which, while inherently unoriginal, compensates with its go-for-broke brio and unexpected hilarity.
Nine friends head out into the woods for a messy weekend, only to find themselves waking up after a night of debauchery with irremovable bomb vests strapped to their chests. As the youngsters come to terms with the fact that their friendship group has been targeted, they also discover that each vest has a different amount of time counting down. In the event they kill one of their pals, they “inherit” that person’s time to their own vest, extending the countdown to their own demise. Only one can survive, but who will it be, and why is this happening?
The fifth film from Alastair Orr (From a House on Willow Street) sensibly doesn’t take long to get going, with the vests introduced at only around the 15-minute mark, after which the rest of the movie effectively plays out in real-time.
And by foregrounding the more outrageous nature of its story and tone early, it becomes easy to accept the avalanche of ridiculousness that follows – primarily, that time is transferred between victims and the nearest living person by way of “proximity sensors.”
Yet at all times David D. Jones’ script expresses a thorough self-awareness of its own knotted nature, at one point even having one character refer to the mastermind’s plan as “convoluted.”
While the opening pre-vest sequence might initially suggest the film isn’t quite aware enough of how insipid its early-20s protagonists are, that’s quickly swept aside when the assailant shows up to scream at them, “You’re all so annoying!”
For the remaining hour-plus, Jones’ script fields out hilariously air-headed dialogue between the surviving characters, sending-up the stereotypical self-centeredness of young millennials within the confines of a kill-or-be-killed scenario. Though a certain joke about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s divorce has evidently aged like milk, there are some terrifically on-point one-liners throughout, particularly when one character says to another, “I knew you were a psycho when you didn’t cry at the end of Terminator 2!”
The bulk of the film switch-foots between the young leads squabbling among one another and intermittent bursts of violence, which become more frequent as we sprint towards an impressively well-wrought finale.
It’d be a lot harder to tolerate all the screaming were the script not so pointedly aware of the leads’ irritation factor, and the ensemble cast not so talented. Especially note-worthy is Russell Crous as the quip-happy, velvet-voiced psychopath Kato, whose performance vacillates between uneasily intense and gut-bustingly funny at a moment’s notice. If casting often takes a back seat to other concerns in movies of this type, it’s a testament to the process here that all of the young cast members deliver well on the demands of the script.
On top of the convincing performances, the chaos is also ably helmed by Orr, who orchestrates the increasingly bloody carnage with an efficient eye, with particular regard to close-quarters combat and some delightful practical gore. Some of the sitcom-style snap zooms during dialogue scenes proves a tad distracting, but when the film decides to get mean and grisly, Orr clearly knows what to do.
Surprisingly tight conceptually and well-written for a movie which really didn’t need to be either of those things, Triggered actually aspires to do more than meet the basic requirements of its knowingly trashy premise. While the final twist might prove a tad too ridiculous for some, it still doesn’t really linger far outside the movie’s established tonal wheelhouse.
Marvel as annoying youngsters get slaughtered en masse in this well-acted, hilariously self-aware millennial riff on Battle Royale.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.