31st Aug2023

Frightfest 2023: ‘Triggered’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Arjo Atayde, Julia Montes, Sid Lucero, Kokoy De Santos, Vin Abrenica, Gerard Acao, Rosh Barman, Kayley Carrigan, Enchong Dee | Written by Jim Flores, Will Fredo, Richard Somes | Directed by Richard Somes

A Special Forces operative suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder is discharged from the army due to his extreme medical condition. Finding employment as a security guard, his world is turned upside down when he finds himself embroiled in a different kind of urban war after a young woman seeks protection from a corrupt police death squad working for one of the most brutal drug cartels. As the pair continues to fight for their lives, the man must confront his inner demons and earn the redemption he desperately craves…

Set in the Philippines and opening with the kind of jungle-based action not scene since the 80s heyday of filmmakers like Teddy Page and Cirio H. Santiago – filmmakers who capitalised on the international market afforded by companies looking to pump out VHS tapes for the exploding rental scene – Triggered (aka Topakk) is a brutal, gory take on those junglespolitation “horrors of war” films mixed with modern sensibilities, brutality and action from films like The Raid and the more recent Why Don’t You Just Die!

And when I say brutality, I don’t just mean hard-hitting fights using a whole barrage of martial arts styles. Oh no, there’s just as more blood and gore in Richard Somes’ film as there is in any horror movie – evisceration, decapitation, amputation and even an exploding head. Those are just some of the gory “delights” of Triggered. The film is not all blood and guts though – once we get past the prologue there’s a brief respite from the action as we’re reintroduced to our now downtrodden hero, starting work at his new job as a security guard at a factory but… once the film sets up the Assault on Precinct 13 style situation at the factory, Somes puts the pedal to the metal and the pace does NOT let up.

Fight after fight after fight after fight. Think the height of The Raid‘s mayhem but increase the action two-fold. That’s how manic Triggered‘s pace is. And it’s not just our security guard hero at work either – it turns out the young woman he’s helping is just as handy with her fist and feet as he is – taking out numerous members of the “death squad” with whatever she can lay her hands on, including a table saw!

Between the gore, the pacing of the film and the loud, pounding, soundtrack that accompanies both Triggered feels like an assault on the senses, But then isn’t that reflective of our hero? A man changed by what he’s seen, and what he’s experienced, forever scarred by his past, suffering PTSD and the trauma of not being able to save his fellow soldiers; constantly assaulted by his visions, by his thoughts. After all, war is hell but, as the characters say in the movie, life can be hell as well. And much like we all rooted for Ike Uwais’ underdog in The Raid, you can’t help but root for Arjo Atayde’s soldier turned guard to escape this situation, and in this case his own personal hell too!

***** 5/5

Triggered (aka Topakk) screened as part of this year’s Frightfest London.


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