Nothing beats a sensational death game, watching an otherwise ordinary group struggle with the horrific scenario of having to kill to stay alive – all kinds of dilemmas ensuing to typical morality. The formula acts as an ideal way to tap into the primal imperative of surviving, and provokes the worst in people as they begin to rationalize killing other ‘participants’. Certainly, the genre has become cemented as a fan favorite due to standouts like Battle Royale, Belko Experiments and Would You Rather?, but there is always room for more (in instances whereas it’s delivered competently). Enter the South African horror/thriller Triggered, a film guaranteed to have its fair share of explosions and friends transformed into enemies, but… does the production nail the essential points of the premise we adore?

What is it About?

“Nine high school friends have a five-year reunion camping in a forest. They all have secrets. Their old science teacher straps a time bomb to each of them. Killing another gives one their time. Last one lives.”

Triggered Death Game poster

What Works?

The cast is a pretty stereotypical bunch and the perfect age for being horror, conveying enough unlikable traits to have the audience cheer their demise. However, the production poses a fun guessing game of who is going to survive by subverting expectations – those you would think would turn heel end up being heroic and vice versa. As shallow as the actual drama is, it was refreshing to not just know from the opening 5 minutes who was going to die and in which order, as there is no clear hero and the film is significantly better for such unpredictability. Even if the ending falls flat for viewers, which is likely, it is inarguable that the character arcs are perfectly executed to keep the audience guessing till the end.

Triggered is not a film to f*** around, diving into the brutal fight for survival by several minutes of introducing the cast. Essentially, the film establishes who is in a relationship to give a rough idea of how alliances will form and then victims have at each other. This does result in a lack of character depth, but for audiences who just want to show up and watch some people explode, it is an ideal set up.

Hitting those dark comedic notes, the film humor will be hit or miss for audiences. Undeniably crass and low-brow (the longest running gag being about herpes), the comedic styling is juvenile at best. Personally, and the reason this exists as a positive, I enjoyed the comedic timing and crude nature of the jokes as I had already committed to accepting the absurdness of the situation. However, I would not be surprised if other fans hated the approach – interjecting comedy into the narrative.

Triggered Film Still

What Does Not Work?

Triggered tries to hide its budget by night shooting and fails in execution; not only does a the  bulk of gorey goodness become obscured, but the general aesthetic is unpleasant. This is more notable in one-on-one fights, with limbs being crushed or fists thrown, where the impact of the violence consequently becomes dulled due to not being able to discern the damage being inflicted. Arguably, being able to see the rough edges would have been preferable to obscuring them altogether.

There is a definite lack of depth by the production, and little reason to come back for any rewatch. As a ‘death game’, the experience is fulfilling, but Triggered is far from being representative of the mini-genre at its best. Ultimately, the film is serviceable and does just enough to keep the audience engaged but little to make a lasting impression – it is a fun one-off viewing experience.

Where Did We Watch It?

Releasing in the UK on digital in September 13th, 2021, we watched trigger through the Altitude site. You can visit the film page here.

Overall thoughts

Triggered is not ever going to make anyone’s ‘best of’ list, it is a simple set-up and execution that lacks depth or polish. However, the film does scratch that itch of the thrills that come with death games, and the narrative is really light and digestible. Essentially, it is a perfect popcorn flick and an ideal way to kill an evening with like minded friends who like talking over a film or completists of death game structured films.

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