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  Triggered Friends Blow Up So Fast
Year: 2020
Director: Alastair Orr
Stars: Reine Swart, Russell Crous, Liesl Ahlers, Cameron Scott, Steven John Ward, Paige Bonnin, Kayla Privett, Suraya Rose Santos, Sean Cameron Michael, Michael Lawrence Potter, Craig Urbani, Johan Baird
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: A man awakens bound and gagged in a forest and covered in his own blood. Not only that, but he finds as his captor and tormentor takes off his hood that he is strapped to a bomb vest - that is, a vest with a bomb in it that has a timer embedded in the chest. If the timer reaches zero, he will explode, but given there is no hope of rescue, that is what will most probably happen to him unless some Good Samaritan wanders by to call for help. Meanwhile, a group of friends who knew each other in high school are out on a camping trip, though none of them seem to know whose idea it was to invite them all, since it's not as if each and every one has been keen to keep in touch now school is over. Well, there is a reason, and it's not a good one...

If you predict from this that before long the assembled young persons will be strapped into the bomb vests themselves then you would be absolutely correct in that assumption, because we were in the realms of high concept horror that fans of the Saw franchise would not be wholly surprised by. What you may not be able to predict is that there is a gaming element to all of this, a game of death if you wish (yeah, it's one of those movies), where each "contestant" can win by taking one of their rivals' minutes remaining. They do so by making sure they are right next to them just as they die, not too close if they are exploding, presumably, but the person with the most minutes and seconds at the end of the night will win. That is, the only person still alive wins.

There are cosmetic trappings to this to render it more visually striking, mostly down to the coloured LED lights on the vests which add the distinctive hues of blue (for the person in the lead), green (for everyone else) and red (for the person who is has the least time left) to the pitch black of the forest. So aesthetically pleasing at least was what director Alastair Orr managed, but he had a smart little script (co-written with David D. Jones) to assist him which, though it did not initially appear to be, eventually settled into a comedy as black as the darkness enveloping the characters. As a bonus, quite a few of those lines were genuinely pretty funny, since if if it had been relentlessly grim there would not be as much to enjoy here. Sure, it was implausible and way too overinvolved for anyone to set up, even a revenge-crazed science teacher, but you just went with it.

This was a South African movie, but posing as an American one as many of the genre movies out of that territory did, meaning a bunch of young thespians from the bottom end of the continent putting on American accents, though to be fair they did not do too bad a job of this, and worked up a degree of personality for their roles which assisted in fathoming who was intended to be whom and what relationship they had to the others. There was a murder mystery too - not the exploding one, we knew who was behind that, but the teacher wanted vengeance for the murder of his son which he suspects one of the potential victims is responsible for. He's not wrong, and with the characters reacting in ways that may still match their makeup, but could be unexpected nonetheless, you may be surprised at how this conundrum is resolved. It was very bloody and brutal as the worst comes to worst, but fewer people blow up than you might anticipate as murderous impulses come to the fore. A bit too clever-clever, but impressively handled for what could have been deadening and crass: rather, it was fleet of foot. Music by Andries Smit and Jason van Wyk.

[TRIGGERED is released on Altitude.film and other digital platforms from 13 September 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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