Movie Review: “Triggered” friends hunt friends in the forest

Nine friends gather in the woods for a campout on the weekend of “the big game” at their high school alma mater. Only one is meant to walk out.

That’s the weary premise of “Triggered,” a grisly, gory variation on a timeworn horror tale theme, a movie characterized not so much by its characters — stock “types” — but by the one-liner-littered dialogue.

The nine — Suraya Rose Santos, Steven John Ward, Paige Bonnin, Russell Crous, Kayla Privett, Michael Lawrence Potter, Cameron Scott, Liesl Ahlers and Reine Swart — are connected. They were high school friends, several have coupled up and swapped about romantically.

They all bitch about “camping,” are prone to reopen old high school woulds, and all miss “Caleb,” the member of their crew who died.

Then they wake up with laser tag/bomb vests on, complete with timers. Mr. Peterson (Sean Cameron Mitchell) has a beef with these “reckless, entitled de-sensitized” 20somethings.

This must be a nightmare, right? One “where my high school science teacher stitched my a– into a metal vest, downloaded all the ‘Saw’ movies, bitched about ‘millennials’ for a hot second, then blew his f—–g brains out!”

That’s right.Peterson just said something about “only one will survive,” didn’t really explain “the rules,” and killed himself.

This “worst reunion ever” is a fairly unpleasant blend of giggles and geysers of blood. The “friends” reveal their secrets and their personality flaws as they stab, bludgeon, shoot and hack their way through the middle of the woods in the middle of the night.

Can Rian (Reine Swart), “the smart one” figure a way out? Don’t count on her beau, PJ (Cameron Scott). Dude’s a drummer with Butthole Equinox.

Maybe the tougher guys, flip sides of the same coin, will master the game. But Ezra (Steven John Ward) spends all his time trying to convince girlfriend CiCi (Kayla Privett) he’s not cheating on her. Raging Kato (Russell Crous) seems the safer bet. He starts with name-calling as if he’s working his way up to ax murderer.

“You’re basic…You’re a LEFT SWIPE on ‘Tinder!'”

Harsh.

It’s the sort of script where characters stumble upon each other, covered in blood and bleeding out, and ask, “Are you OK?”

Somebody’s bomb vest goes off and we hear “F—–g HARDCORE!”

Somebody’s “gay, every now and then.” Somebody has herpes. Somebody has an even bigger secret.

The chases, insults and bloody fights in the gloomy South African forest grow tedious, sooner rather than later. The funny lines are scattered through a movie meant to be deadly serious, maybe even generating a little pathos, here and there.

It’s not the worst movie in that Poe-Christie “kill off characters, one by one” formula. The players do well by their moments of terror or sadistic cruelty. But it’s entirely too obvious to come off, entirely too cluttered to have a character or characters rope us in, and entirely too chatty-jokey to ever be scary.

And it’s not funny enough to work as a sick comedy.

MPA Rating: unrated, gruesome, bloody violence, sex, profanity

Cast: Liesl Ahlers, Reine Swart, Sean Cameron Michael, Suraya Rose Santos, Steven John Ward, Paige Bonnin, Craig Urbani, Russell Crous, Kayla Privett, Michael Lawrence Potter and Cameron Scott

Credits: Directed by Alastair Orr, script by David D. Jones. A Samuel Goldwyn release.

Running time: 1:33

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