Triggered is a self-aware horror-thriller that could use a little polish, but still offers B-movie charm.
Directed by Alastair Orr (From a House on Willow Street) and written by David D. Jones, Triggered follows a group of high school friends who reunite for a camping trip. Things take a dark turn when a former teacher appears and forces the group to play a deadly game in which they are on the clock and must kill one another to gain more time.
Jones’ script isn’t heavy on character development but it’s smarter than it looks – and it’s often laugh-out-loud funny. Much of the humour stems from an awareness of genre tropes. Unlike many other films that employ self-aware jokes and direct references to other films, Triggered is never heavy-handed or self-congratulatory.
Sadly, these moments of humour aren’t given enough time to breath. While the camerawork has its successful moments, it relies heavily on medium shots and medium close-ups that become repetitive and make for a visually mundane experience. The use of short shots, rapid cuts, and generally disorienting cinematography are effective at creating a general feeling of anxiety and tension, particularly in the second act. However, there are many points where the cuts are abrupt and awkward, moving rapidly from one subject to the next and creating a frantic pace that crowds the script and suffocates some of the best lines.
One of the most enjoyable features of David D. Jones’ script is that it calls attention to its own limitations. Drawing on what is clearly a deep knowledge of horror tropes, it understands when it is playing into them and manages to keep things fresh by poking fun at itself.
Still, for such an aware and deliberate film, Triggered is remarkably conservative in the tropes that it chooses to play straight. For example, it would have been nice if the film had made an effort to subvert the way that horror films and thrillers typically punish deviant behaviour. Characters in these films who drink, have sex, are queer, or otherwise defy conservative societal expectations of “correct” behaviour usually meet gory and untimely ends (anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about here should re-watch the famous “rules” scene in Scream for a refresher). Without giving too much of the film away, I’ll just say that Triggered doesn’t do much to confront this well-established plot staple. Playing by the “rules” is all well and good, but I would have been delighted if Triggered had challenged this just a little – or at least called attention to it. Combined with the early death of the film’s only queer character, one is left with the sense that Triggered, though fast-paced and enjoyable, is a rather conservative film with little interest in colouring outside the lines.
Sometimes the hard part of reviewing is separating what a film is from what it could be, or even what we would like it to be. At the end of the day, I wanted more from Triggered – but only because I want more subversive, independent horror-thrillers in general. While it isn’t perfect, Triggered is still a fun movie – if a little basic and predictable.
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Shannon Page: @ShannonEvePage