Credit: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Before We Vanish by Zachary Goldkind Film

Triggered | Alastair Orr

November 24, 2020

Triggered is a derivative, generic horror flick populated by insufferable assholes. Pass. 

With a title like Triggered, one might be forgiven for expecting some kind of topical political content, subtextual or otherwise, especially given the horror genre’s long history of smuggling big ideas in between the blood and guts. But Triggered does no such thing; in fact, other than featuring some tired jabs aimed at “lazy millennials,” it doesn’t do much of anything at all. Despite a clever-enough set up and some appealingly gloopy gore, there’s not much to distinguish Triggered from countless other low-budget horror flicks littering streaming sites. Here, a group of old friends gather in the woods for a reunion of sorts, drinking, smoking, and reminiscing about their high school years. After lights out, they are unexpectedly rendered unconscious, eventually waking up to discover elaborate electronic vests locked onto their bodies. Each one has a timer that is counting down to zero, and when the countdown ends, the rig explodes. The catch? Each person can “steal” time from someone else’s clock if they kill them, a process that repeats itself until there’s a last man (or woman) standing. It’s an idea highly reminiscent of the miserable Saw franchise (which one of the obnoxiously self-aware, pop-culture-savvy characters here is quick to lampshade).

There’s a lot of problems here, not least of which is the collection of uninteresting assholes at the film’s center. Director Alastair Orr and co-writer David D. Jones can only think in clichés and hamfisted exposition, leading to a lot of awkward, clunky conversations and tired, sub-Diablo Cody pop culture zingers (exhibit A: “I knew you had no feelings when you didn’t cry at the end of Terminator 2!”). There’s no discernible reason these people would ever be friends, nor any reason to think that these jackassess would have any qualms about killing each other to save themselves. They mostly hurl invectives and squabble over who slept with whose significant others. It doesn’t help that the fuzzy, dark cinematography makes every scene look virtually identical, nor that half the cast looks alike. One couple becomes the de facto heroes of the story, mostly by virtue of looking a little different from the others and thereby easier to distinguish. But their characterization begins and ends with them constantly declaring “I’m a rockstar” and “I’m smart, I go to MIT.” There’s a narrative through-line involving a dark secret from the group’s past, a shared trauma that has led to their current predicament. But it’s employed entirely haphazardly, only popping up intermittently to goose the lagging narrative momentum, and by the time the culprit is revealed, audiences will surely be more excited that the whole endeavor is almost over. The only thing this movie will trigger is a viewer’s flight response.

Published as part of Before We Vanish | November 2020.