Triggered [Grimmfest Review]: Deadly Games with Douchey Friends
When describing the premise of Triggered it’s easy to bring up numerous other films that inspired it. From the meta commentary of Scream, the brutal killing and mean spirit of Saw, the survival of the strongest narrative of Battle Royale, all the way to the secrets of the past coming back to haunt you trope of I Know What You Did Last Summer. It may not be original, but what it lacks in new ideas it more than makes up for with it’s fast pace and indulgent cruelty that has us cheering for the next death.
Kicking off with a cold open that gives us the basic gist of the ‘kill or be killed’ shenanigans we are about to delve into, Triggered follows nine early twenties ‘friends’ who are having a reunion and camping in the woods. A concept that of course has never, ever, resulted in death and tragedy. The gang consists of Rian (Reine Swart), Erin (Liesl Ahlers), Shea (Suraya Santos), Ezra (Steven John Ward), PJ (Cameron R. Scott), Bobby (Michael Potter), Kato (Russell Crous), Cici (Kayla Privett) and Amber (Paige Bonnin), but honestly they may as well be named like the ‘Seven Dwarves’. There’s Angry, Funny, Smarty, Assholey, Dummy, the whole cacophony of stereotypes. All of these characters are dicks…except P.J, that guy is a sweetie and we should protect him.
During the night a mysterious stranger enters the campsite and gasses our protagonists. When they wake up there’s a suicide vest attached to them with a gaming screen display and deadly amounts of explosives attached. After a few moments of panic the exposition is dumped and the dark secret of their past is revealed. Mr Peterson, a teacher at their high school, blames them for the death of his son Caleb and the subsequent ruining of his career and life so signed them up for this death match. They must kill each other to survive and there can be only one winner. He lets the message sink in for a split second before blowing his brains out and leaving the squad helpless and with some unanswered questions on the rules of the game.
The vests are counting down their randomly assigned survival time and they have to start figuring out how to make it through the night. They soon discover the rules, through a hard learned brutal lesson, if you kill someone the person closest to the dead person gets their ‘time’. This adds a new element, they don’t just have to kill each other, they have to be in close contact or someone else may get your kill points. No camping out and taking people down from a distance, this game is up close and personal.
“Triggered doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel, just gruesomely run over as many people as they can with it.”
Some of them want to get help, others want to help themselves. The double crossing and false allegiances begin and I’m really not sure if any of these characters even like each other (except for PJ and Rian who are a pretty nice couple. Especially PJ, did I mention he’s a sweetie?). This works out well for the premise as they turn on each other pretty quickly and, in some cases, with psychotic glee. It’s also a bonus for the audience, as the lighting is so dark it’s kind of hard to tell the characters apart, but it doesn’t matter because we’re not really rooting for any of them. They are reckless, entitled and desensitised, which makes them perfect fodder for some entertaining kills.
The script is somewhere between hilarious and ridiculous, and I am willing to give director Alastair Jones and writer David D. Jones the full benefit of knowing this and playing upon it. It pays heavy homage to everything that came before it with a knowing nod to the films that inspired it. Triggered doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel, just gruesomely run over as many people as they can with it. It seems to find its humour half way through when it no longer feels the need to explain its premise and just revels in the bloody ride we are on.
There’s some funny cultural references, especially a character comparing himself to Jason Bateman whilst meaning to reference Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. There’s jokes about being gluten-free and therefore clearly unable to murder, and a lot of references to herpes. Unfortunately there are also some awkward moments, looking at you shameful sexuality side plot, that feel a little dated for such a modern movie that is definitely set in the present day. This is outweighed by the sheer delight this film takes in cutting down it’s characters and giving us some great gore and some ridiculous one liners.
It may not be perfect, it may not be anything new but it is a joyous time watching awful people do awful things at breakneck speed. It’s fast paced action with a gory good time energy that doesn’t allow you to dwell on any of the issues with the production. Just sit back and enjoy the splatter deaths in this goofy, darkly comic and self aware throwback film.