TRIGGERED *** USA 2018 Dir: Chris Moore. 114 mins
Writer-director Chris Moore’s last film was the excellent BLESSED ARE THE CHILDREN (2016), a smart modern slasher wittily balancing genre-savvy references with unusually strong characterisations.
His follow-up is another slasher movie with rare attention to complex teenage characters – this time welded to a broad satire of divided, Trump-era America, tackling hot-button issues like sexual harassment (“Now you’re looking at my boob – that’s rape!”), mental illness, and school violence (“Put God in their hearts and guns in their hands”). As a series of unsolved killings from thirty years earlier appear to be resuming, the focus is on two best friends : lonely gay student Jesse Dalton, who gets coerced into an authentically awkward encounter with a male prostitute early on, and abrasive non-binary, pan-sexual Meredith Mohler, the ex-girlfriend of one of the murder victims and daughter of a Kimono-clad, alcoholic ex-scream queen.
Engagement with TRIGGERED depends almost entirely on your tolerance for Mohler’s deliberately shrill protagonist, a walking talking manifestation of what the Daily Mail might call Political Correctness “Gone Mad”, constantly rallying about gender, racial discrimination and sexuality. Influenced by the sarcastic, black-humoured cycle of American high school murder films from HEATHERS to TRAGEDY GIRLS, its satirical targets are obvious but relevant ones (social media, body-shaming, exploitative media news) within a tale about how all you need to truly get on in American high school life is to almost be murdered and to transform into a “hottie” via a combination of exercise, makeover and bulimia. The second half offers divertingly brutal murders, though it suffers from extreme overlength and a tendency for silly – rather than funny – supporting characters. Nonetheless, there are some great bitchy lines (“Wow, you’re actually keeping the food down these days?), and a refreshing portrait of a gay male lead, complete with that horror movie rarity: a non-heterosexual sex scene. Plus, however much you might hate her, Mohler’s protagonist is genuinely memorable.
Review by Steven West