Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Shot at night with scenes designed to look as if they're lit by torchlight, this is no small technical achievement." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

A slice of high concept horror with nicely drawn characters, Triggered is the latest work by Alastair Orr, the man behind 2016 genre hit From A House On Willow Street. It makes use of some familiar tropes but draws them together into a story that stands up well in its own right, with tight pacing and explosive energy.

It begins with that old genre staple, a weekend trip to the woods, where a group of young people get together - some of them meeting for the first time since high school - and sit around a campfire to talk and drink. Exactly how they all came to be invited on this trip is a bit of a mystery, however, as they weren't all close friends. They don't have long in which to start figuring it out before gas starts drifting around their camp and they all pass out - only to wake up with bombs strapped to their chests. Each bomb bears a screen with a countdown on it. Some numbers are lower than others. But things really get interesting when they discover that if one of them dies, the person who is physically closest to them acquires their remaining time. With no working car available and a 30 mile walk to the nearest town, it's only by stealing others' time that any one of them stands a chance of getting out of the situation alive.

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There's more to this, of course, with a background scenario explaining at least something of how they came to be in this absurd situation. Writer David D Jones knows better than to go into too much detail when the real fun of the story is in what happens next. He also makes sure to present us with characters who don't just plunge straight into a free-for-all but try to figure out a rational solution or a way to circumvent the rules that have been set for them. When they decide that it would be better to separate, unexpected alliances form, letting some characters reveal more depth as others give way to the psychopathy required to enhance the tension. Although a strong candidate for final girl emerges early on, not everybody is what they appear to be, and viewers can look forward to a few surprises.

Shot at night with scenes designed to look as if they're lit by torchlight, this is no small technical achievement. There are very few moments when it becomes difficult to tell who's doing what, and although he's confessed that it was a tough shoot, Orr seems fully in control throughout. Good use is made of shadow and the uncertainty it produces but there are few points at which the film slows down to focus on creepiness. Instead it carries us from one action set piece to another. Jones' script balances these well between the different characters so that no-one who survives beyond the first ten minutes seems extraneous. It's the inter-character dynamics that do the heavy lifting when the film pauses for breath.

Faced with a premise like this, fans might be understandably wary, but Triggered is a smarter and better structured film than most will expect. It's also thoroughly entertaining.

Reviewed on: 10 Oct 2020
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Triggered packshot
Nine friends, each harbouring a dark secret, go camping in the woods. When they wake up with bombs strapped to their chests, they find themselves caught up in a deadly game.

Director: Alistair Orr

Writer: David D Jones

Starring: Liesl Ahlers, Reine Swart, Sean Cameron Michael, Steven John Ward, Craig Urbani

Year: 2020

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: South Africa

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