Directed by Alastair Orr.
Starring Liesl Ahlers, Sean Cameron Michael, Reine Swart, Steven John Ward and Craig Urbani.
Nine friends, spending the night camping in the woods, wake up with explosive devices strapped to their chests, each with differing times on their countdown clock. Realising they’re part of a former acquaintance’s twisted revenge ploy, the group desperately try to figure out how to disarm their bombs. But the rules of the game mean there can only be one survivor.
A group of attractive youngsters forced to play a cruel game that pits them against one another in a fight to the death? If the basic plot of Triggered, Alastair Orr’s enjoyably excessive fifth feature, sounds a little familiar, then it’s entirely by design.
That’s because Orr’s gruesome cat-and-mouse thriller wears its influences and brazen self-awareness on its sleeve, with all the subtlety of an explosive device strapped to the chest of a promiscuous millennial spouting about Bitcoin. As the twenty-somethings dart about the woods late at night in a Hunger Games-style fight for their lives, there are name drops aplenty, with nods to the likes of Saw, Lord of the Flies, John Wick and even Terminator 2.
But for its two most notable reference points—Friday the 13th and Battle Royale—there is no explicit mention. Instead, their DNA is baked into the very framework of Orr and screenwriter David D. Jones’ tale of an impromptu rural reunion between a group of former high school friends that quickly turns sour. After an inebriated evening down memory lane, a former teacher suddenly shows up, fitting each of them with an immovable bomb vest and forcing them to face up to a dark secret from their past by playing a deadly game that can only end when a sole survivor remains.
At first, the group use what limited resources they have—an axe; a crowbar; a pen knife—in an attempt to disarm the devices, clinging to the idea that, if they stick together, they’ll all see out the night. A playfully sinister twist soon puts a stop to any hopes of collaboration, however: each of the vests is fitted with a different countdown, and a player, by means of loosely-explained ‘proximity sensors’, can inherit another’s time by killing them.
With mortality staring them in the face, true colours are soon revealed as tools become weapons, survival becomes betrayal, and the notion that time is precious suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.
Were all this played entirely straight, this gory, sensibly taut 90-minute thriller would be considerably more difficult to tolerate. Thankfully, the overt seriousness of the characters’ predicament is shrewdly undercut by the film’s awareness of its own absurdity. To that end, there are times when some members of the group explicitly point to the convolution of the villain’s plot, while others work to feed the stereotype of the self-absorbed millennial—”I can’t even eat gluten; I’m not gonna be able to kill anyone”.
It’s this knowing embrace of its young characters’ insipidness that proves to be Triggered‘s most endearing feature. The assailant’s early cries of “you’re all so annoying!” very quickly ring true. From glaring pop-culture slip-ups—”You’ve gone all Jason Bateman on me, bro”—to modern takes on classic phrases—”I can read you like a celebrity gossip blog”—these characters seem to serve as not only archetypes of the horror genre, but as manifestations of the prejudices that exist in contemporary society.
As such, Orr’s film works on a number of levels: an incisive satire of the millennial generation that also delivers on the promise of its trashy premise. It’s Fukasaku does Camp Crystal Lake with a perpetual awareness of its own inherent banality. It’s stupid, but it’s also smarter than you might think.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
George Nash is a freelance film journalist. Follow him on Twitter via @_Whatsthemotive for movie musings, puns and cereal chatter.